Critical Context

The Trick of the Ga Bolga, Patrick McGinley’s fifth novel and the most elaborate of his works at the time it was published, consolidates his reputation as an extremely polished writer of quirky murder stories. While this reputation is not undeserved, it is a little misleading. McGinley’s novels do indeed contain murder, but, as in The Trick of the Ga Bolga, the crime is merely a convenient narrative peg from which to suspend a variety of other, less easily resolved, concerns. Since the reader almost always knows the perpetrator’s identity, the mystery surrounding McGinley’s murders both assumes and defies the conventions of crime fiction.

Rather than concerning themselves with murder as such, therefore, McGinley’s novels seem more preoccupied with death—its unexpectedness, its incessant presence, and the manner in which it alters one’s perspective of reality once it has taken place. This last aspect, in particular, is of central importance to McGinley’s vision and the duplicitous strategies he uses to convey it. It is in his weave of partial, overlapping perceptions that McGinley’s work seems most indebted to the Irish antirealist novelist, Flann O’Brien. Despite the rather loose nature of the weave in The Trick of the Ga Bolga, the novel is a typical McGinley production, satisfying for its philosophical puzzle making, for its skepticism, and for its entertaining County Donegal lore.