Trespass by Anthony Quinn is the fourth book in the Inspector Celsius Daly series, catapulting Daly into the search for a missing boy that leads to an unsolved mystery from the era of The Troubles.
Inspector Celsius Daly’s neighbor is worried about him. He’s right off an explosive investigation that stretched all the way back to the '70s and encompassed his mother’s death. It’s taken a toll. He spends a lot of time walking the grounds of his remote farm, alone.
His hands were clenched by his sides, his tendons contracting, his eyes squinting as leaves and broken twigs blew around him. He seemed to be listening intently to the trees, which shifted in the wind with a rising chorus of injured, squeaking noises. What had so fixated his attention that he seemed oblivious to the weather and human company? She watched as his fists tightened and untightened, and his eyes swiveled back and forth, as if searching for some stimulus to release the tension in his body. For a few moments, she shared his lonely refuge, this space of cold air between churning trees. Part of her wanted to reach out and console him, even though it violated the rules of respect for a neighbor’s grief. It seemed to her that the man beside her wasn’t a detective, but a troubled only child who had yet to lead the life that had been promised him.
Meanwhile, on another farm, an old man named Samuel Reid is afraid. A group of travelers (gypsies) has leased the land surrounding his farm, and their behavior seems to be getting more menacing by the day. He feels like they are watching him, closing in on him, and his behavior becomes more and more paranoid as he contends with the ghosts of his past.
The past was drawing near. He felt it in his nerves and in the hairs of his neck. He saw it repeatedly in his dreams, and in the landscape beyond his winder, which resonated with clues: the spindly trees standing stiffly to attention, the quivering nettles, the warning calls of crows and blackbirds, the blackthorn tips that tapped the window like the suppressed subconscious of his farm, and the wind that rose louder and louder, carrying the shouts of murder and revenge along the overgrown hedges.
Turns out Reid has good reason to be afraid, and the arrival of a journalist one night confirms it. The journalist is asking about a young woman, a gypsy, named Mary O’Sullivan, who disappeared along with her baby in the '70s. Reid’s brother, who is now a government hotshot, may have had something to do with it, and to make matters worse, she may have been an informer for the IRA. It’s then that the action of the travelers on his property really starts to take on a more menacing tone. Are they there to hurt him, scare him, or enact some kind of horrible revenge?
Soon, in spite of trying to stay out of any serious crime and keep largely to himself, Daly is drawn into the case of a missing 10-year-old boy who is thought to have been abducted by travelers. During all of this, Daly is pelted on all sides about dredging up the past. But Northern Ireland is mired in its dangerous past where the ghost of the IRA and the violence of the Troubles still resonates.
Quinn lends an eerie cast to this story, where evil simmers right under the surface like some sort of menacing underground river, forever flowing, sweeping up anyone in its path. Secrets, past and present, cast a heavy shadow over the events, and Daly’s unhappiness with the state of his life is a match for such dark history. Anyone that knows me knows that I like my cops tortured, and boy does Daly fit the bill. A scene where he holds the infant of a shoplifter who must go before the judge alone is telling, and it speaks to his emotional turmoil:
Suddenly, he did not want to be in the courthouse holding this stranger’s baby. He shut his eyes, craving darkness or some sort of refuge, a secret hiding place in his father’s fields. The baby started crying again, and he stared at it with unblinking eyes. He wanted to be kind and patient to it, but his kindness and patience were nothing but a veneer hiding his raging frustration.
While Quinn doesn’t cover much new ground when it comes to theme or plot, the setting—with its rich and violent history—elevates the story, as does the writing that, at times, borders on poetic. Trespass can be read on its own, but reading the previous book, Silence, may be helpful—if only to put readers more firmly into Daly’s state of mind after such a harrowing case. Readers that enjoy tons of atmosphere and suspense in a more traditional vein will find a lot to like with this one.
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