(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The action of Bogmail, the author’s first published novel, takes place in a small fictional community in his native County Donegal, Ireland’s most northwesterly and most remote county. One of the book’s most immediately attractive features is its loving evocation of this environment’s terrain, social structure, flora, and fauna. Such material, however, is not included merely to pad the plot by means of picturesque but self-indulgent travelogue. On the contrary, it forms an explicit contrast to the dark doings at the heart of the narrative.

The author has coyly subtitled Bogmail “A Novel with Murder,” and the novel both begins and concludes with unexpected, if not entirely unplanned, deaths. From the opening page the reader is aware that the protagonist, Tim Roarty, plans to poison the barman who works in his pub, Dermot Eales. Roarty is prompted to carry out such drastic action by the strength of his revulsion at the suspicion that Eales may be having an affair with the daughter of the house, Cecily. The poisoning ploy fails, and, in a reversal of the novel’s slyly comic approach, Roarty finds himself accidentally dispatching Eales with a blow to the head, using a volume of his prize possession, the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Roarty immediately disposes of the body in a local bog. Yet the evidently complete success of both murder and burial merely signals the beginning of the...

(The entire section is 592 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Adams, P. L. Review in The Atlantic. CCXLVIII (July, 1981), p. 90.

Callendar, Newgate. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXXXV (August 2, 1981), p. 27.

Strouse, Jean. Review in Newsweek. XCVIII (July 27, 1981), p. 66.

Sunday Times (London). Review. October 15, 1978.

Time. Review. CXVTII (August 17, 1981), p. 83.