Death on the Holy Mountain

Death on the Holy Mountain by David Dickinson. I’ve read a few, but not all, of the seven Lord Francis Powerscourt series and found them to be of only middling quality. However, this latest book, though badly mistitled, is the best I’ve seen. Powerscourt, his wife Lucy, and his best friend Johnny Fitzgerald end up in Ireland to investigate a series of art thefts. The country was going through the fiercely contested battles for Home Rule during this period and they play a large part in this story. Dickinson provides detailed histories of the country and past revolutionaries and although informative, these histories do slow down the action considerably in the first third of the book. The victims are prominent English landlords, Protestants determined to maintain their land-based power in an increasing Catholic environment. Powerscourt suspects political intimidation, rather than greed, is the motive behind the robberies, especially when the victims refuse to disclose the threats for future action contained in blackmail letters received from the criminals. There is a strange air of gentility amidst all the danger, partly due to the presence of Lady Lucy, but also due to Dickinson’s depiction of the English nobility’s sense of entitlement and naivety. The “Holy Mountain” referred to in the title is Croagh Patrick, site of an annual pilgrimage, and although a body is found at its summit, the subplot involving the mountain is mostly present to provide humor in contrast to the main story.

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