Title: A Pale Moon Was Rising
Author: Brendan Gerad O’Brien
Genre: Historical Irish Fiction
A murder mystery set in Ireland during WW2.
A young man’s body is pulled from the River Lee. He’s wearing a distinctive silver ring. It belongs to Paudy Daly, the eldest son of the notorious Mixer Daly.
Paudy has been missing for over nine months.
He was last seen on his way to rob the house of pig breeder Jacob Butts.
So who is the dead man? And how is he wearing Paudy’s ring?
Jacob Butts scurried across the room, leapt up onto a stool and reached out to the statue of The Virgin Mary on the mantelpiece. ‘Thank you, Lady. Thank you, thank you.’
Leaning forward he kissed the statue’s feet. The excitement that bubbled through him made it difficult for him to breathe but still he did a little dance on the stool. He couldn’t believe what was happening. Never in his wildest dreams had he expected this. Four of them. There were four of them coming. He never had that many before. Four! It was usually just the one, sometimes two. He never had a problem with just one or two. One or two were easy to manage.
Then in a heartbeat the excitement turned into a heavy lump of apprehension. Could he handle four? What about the time three of them turned up? He wasn’t expecting that either and it nearly turned into a disaster. Luckily it didn’t. But it nearly did. And now there were four of them coming. Anxiety was beginning to overwhelm him and he struggle even more to catch his breath.
He looked back at the statue. Trust the Lady? Yes, trust the Lady.
He leapt off the stool and scurried back across the room to the large rug just inside the front door. He gave the edges a tug, making sure it was lying flat and unruffled. He needed it to be invisible.
Then he studied the large mirror at the edge of the rug. That had to be just right too, positioned so that it was almost invisible as well.
But suddenly it was too late. The boards creaked on the wooden walkway outside the door. The handle gave a soft groan as it was tested. They were here.
Jacob Butts sprinted back across the room and threw himself into his big leather armchair near the fireplace, and he flinched as the door crashed open. They were the usual sorts, big men in long coats and assorted hats. And carrying big sticks.
The first two through the door looked straight at Jacob Butts, raised their sticks and charged. And when they ran onto the rug it folded beneath them and they disappeared down the hole.
The third man stopped dead with his feet on the edge. His stick flew into the air as he flapped his arms like a wild bird trying to lift off from thick mud. He almost managed to turn around but the fourth man was already too close and slammed into him. He flipped forward and dropped like a sack of potatoes down on top of his pals.
He might have screamed, but Jacob Butts didn’t hear him. He was too busy wondering what the fourth man was going to do.
But the fourth man was one of life’s followers. He depended on others for guidance. He needed directions. On his own he couldn’t think fast enough. And now he was flummoxed. He wasn’t even a proper member of the gang. He was only there to make up the numbers. The others didn’t want him to come in the first place, but he clung to them like a bad smell. They warned him that if anything went wrong he was on his own.
And now it had. And he was.
Raw fear turned into dark rage. He had a huge face, like a full moon but without the light. He bellowed something as he pointed at Jacob Butts, skipped around the edge of the rug and launched his attack.
When his reflection came out of nowhere and flew towards him he was even more flummoxed. But he was moving too fast and he slammed into the huge mirror that he hadn’t even noticed. The glass shattered. He grabbed his face and howled like a wounded animal. But he stayed on his feet and staggered towards the small man in the big armchair.
Jacob Butts leapt up and grabbed the poker from the rack near his feet, and in a blind panic he threw it in the general direction of the man. It was a fluke, but the poker flew like a javelin. The man ducked but misjudged the throw. The poker hit him in the eye with the force of an arrow and threw him backwards down the hole.
Shock pinned Jacob Butts to the floor. All thoughts had poured out of his head and left just a blank grey space. The only thing that registered with him was his heart beating at twice the normal rate and sucking the oxygen out of him. Any minute now he was going to faint. He was struggling to fathom out what just happened. From start to finish it had probably taken less than half a minute, but it had frozen him in time. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever get back to normal again.
With considerable willpower he shuffled across to the hole and peered down. The first three men were obviously dead, the spikes from the steel contraption on the floor protruding from various places. The fourth man was still twitching, but it wouldn’t be for long.
And the pigs in the sty directly below them were hysterical with the promise of what was to come as the blood poured through the grill and spattered down all over them.
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 October 2017
A good story about mad and bad people...and a few good ones too....written by a true storyteller. Also a good insight into rural Ireland in the 1940s.
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I was born in Tralee, Ireland and now live in Newport, South Wales.
As a child I spent my summer holidays in Listowel, Co Kerry where my uncle Moss Scanlon had a Harness Maker’s shop. It was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters, and it was there that my love of storytelling was kindled by the likes of John B. Keane and Bryan MacMahon, who often wandered in for a chat and bit of jovial banter.
The numerous short stories I’ve written based on those characters have been published in various anthologies and eMags over the years.
I have self-published twenty of them in a collection called Dreamin’ Dreams with Amazon.com.
My first novel, a thriller set in Wales during WW2, is called3
Gallows Field is my second thriller and is also set in WW2, only this time in Ireland.
A Pale Moon Was Rising is a follow up thriller involving Eamon Foley again.
Footsteps is my latest thriller.
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