The City in Darkness

Written by Michael Russell

Review written by Stephen Thornley

An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.

The City in Darkness
RRP: £8.99
Released: October 3 2016


This book seems to have it all, political intrigue, espionage, murders and a missing person not to mention the Catholic Church. The third in the Stefan Gillespie series; Michael Russell really pulls out all the stops and heads full throttle into one of the most turbulent times in Irish history with this terrific read.

Here we are in wartime Dublin, there are no blackouts here though the pubs, bars and nightlife are brightly lit and expertly conjured up in the mind. This is an Ireland newly independent still finding its way in the World and trying to hold to neutrality in the face of British and German offers of friendship. The Government of Eamon De Valera does not want to provoke trouble with either side having only recently adopted its 1937 Constitution leading to the establishment of the Irish Republic.

Gillespie has been brought to Dublin from the rural districts to work at Dublin Castle as a Special Branch DI by his boss Superintendent Terry Gregory. The two men distrust each other's motives yet there is a grudging respect there too. Put on to the task of recording and investigating the men who are leaving Ireland to fight for Britain against the Nazi forces Gillespie wonders why Gregory has brought him to Dublin. Gillespie is a countryman not at home in the city, he doesn't socialize with his colleagues and in turn they don't include him in their world.

It is not long, however, before events have him right in the thick of the murky world of IRA operations and Nazi espionage. But, as he begins to think he has reason to suspect Gregory of complicity with the IRA he is sent back to his home county to help find a missing postman. This case forces Gregory to delve into his darkest memories when he finds evidence that opens a new insight into the death of his wife several years before and of two other local young women. All had been recorded as accident or suicides.

Could it be that there is someone out there in this small community who has killed three women without a hint of suspicion being raised until now? But, the case takes unexpected twists including a connection with Spain, its Civil War, and an Irish Catholic College in Salamanca now being used by the German Abwehr.

This is a story that moves along at a pleasing pace with Gillespie trying to unravel the cold cases of the three dead women whilst also acting as security and aid to the Irish Ambassador to Spain. The ambassador, Leopold Kerney is working to obtain the release from a Spanish prison of a former leader of the IRA. It is a fascinating story blending historical events and characters with fictional ones. At one and the same time being a thriller, a detective story and a historical novel this book will appeal to many readers.

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