YEATS IS DEAD! A Mystery by Fifteen Irish Writers

Joseph O'Connor, Editor . Knopf $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-375-41297-4

Sponsored by Amnesty International to help raise funds for its work, this round-robin mystery, coauthored by 15 esteemed Irish writers, including Frank McCourt, Roddy Doyle and Conor McPherson, is more a literary curiosity than a compelling read. After one of two policemen who are moonlighting as ruffians accidentally shoots a man they've been questioning, Nestor and Roberts find themselves on the body-strewn trail of the mysterious symbol Y8S=+ (no rewards for puzzling it out), a miraculous skin cream and a previously unknown last novel by James Joyce. Nods to Ulysses abound. A copy of the book figures prominently in the plot, while Nestor and Roberts work for a mobster named Mrs. Bloom. Though some lilting Irish prose and notably bawdy passages will appeal, the novel proceeds by fits and starts to a preordained conclusion. There are some keen observations and an understated wit that verges on the epigrammatic ("Her blue eyes glittered with the absence of mental health"). But the eccentricity grows mechanical and a little bit of the blarney goes a long way; consequently the braggadocio becomes forced. ("He hated Bewley's, hated its claustrophobic mahogany interior, its slow black-clad waitresses with their big culchie faces. And yet he always seemed to end up here whenever the black dog of depression was pissing down his back.") Thus, while this mulligan stew of a mystery is sometimes tasty, it's hardly nit picking to point out that the porridge contains more than a few lumps. (June 16)

Forecast:With a 75,000-copy first printing set for Bloomsday, plus some big-name contributors, this should attract plenty of initial attention, but may be too quirky for lasting appeal.

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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