Ghost Hunting During the Irish Uprising

The Blood Dimmed Tide, by Anthony Quinn, (Oldcastle Books), 256 pages, release date 1 April, 2015

I’ve always enjoyed mystery novels featuring literary characters. The Blood Dimmed Tide presents an interesting variation on that genre: literary character as paranormal investigator. In this case the character is W. B. Yeats. It’s 1918, World War I seems to be consuming an entire generation of young men, and the Irish independence movement is turning violent. Yeats is trying to balance his varying loyalties to the Crown and to his native Ireland.

This setting makes the book intellectually “chewy” in a way lacking for many murder-cum-literary-insights novels. The story begins in London, but quickly moves to Ireland. A young serving girl has been murdered, her body found in a two-hundred-year-old coffin floating off the Irish coast. Yeats is haunted by the girl, who inexplicably sent him a letter—a letter he didn’t receive until after her death—saying she feared for her life.

While Yeats is primarily concerned with the paranormal, most of the book’s characters are consumed by the “Irish question.” These characters include representatives of the British government in Ireland, a secret group of Irish women determined to contribute to the revolt, land owners who see an inevitable end to their generations of power, and the tenants of these land owners.

The mystery at the heart of this novel is good, not great—but the way it depicts this historical moment makes up for the lack of unanticipated plot twists.