Writers who set murder mysteries in Ireland have a stark challenge to confront: There aren’t many murders in Ireland. Great news for the people, a challenge to writers. When I was researching my first Irish Village Mystery, Murder in an Irish Village, I asked members of a small town in County Limerick if they remembered any murders taking place in the town in their lifetimes. There was just one. A man killed his wife in the bathroom of the local pub. Then he sat at the bar and drank a pint while he waited for the guards to show up and arrest him.
To this day I don’t know if that’s a true story or not, because he followed it up with this: “I bet it was the best pint of his life.” That’s the Irish for you—that quick, dark wit. I love it.
And thanks to Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and characters like Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, readers meet us mystery writers halfway. They agree to suspend their disbelief despite a disproportionate amount of people dying mysteriously in one small location. And thank goodness they do, because once that hurdle is cleared, there is no better setting for a murder mystery than Ireland. The rugged scenery, the hearty, quirky, characters, the cutting wit, the deep pride of the people who live on the Emerald Isle—it all makes for a rich and vibrant setting that equally thrills while it haunts. On this note, I am excited to be launching a second mystery series set in Ireland, beginning with Murder in Galway. It follows Tara Meehan in the vibrant, eclectic city on a quest to clear her uncle of murder. In the meantime, if you enjoy armchair travel to the Emerald Isle, check out the authors and their books below. Put your feet up, have a mug of tea, and get ready for a hundred thousand welcomes.
John McAllister, The Station Sergeant
A writer from Northern Ireland, John McAllister has written The Station Sergeant, Barlow Laid Bare, and Barlow by the Book. Set in North Ireland, (Ballymena) his mysteries move fast, and are sure to draw readers in. A good one start with is The Station Sergeant, set in 1960. One man, one mission: to protect those he loves and find the killer in his community. Barlow is a likable protagonist who doesn’t hesitate to get into the thick of things, and will not stop until the case is closed. Fantastic action and well-drawn Irish characters made a fan out of me.
Andrea Carter, the Inishowen Mysteries
Book one in Andrea Carter’s mystery series set in the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland, is Death at Whitewater Church. Solicitor Benedicta “Ben” O’Keeffe represents the owners of a church where a skeleton is discovered in a hidden crypt in a deconsecrated church. That’s all I need to know to want to dive right in. Once you finish and want more, you’ll have others waiting for you: Murder at Greysbridge, Treacherous Stand, and The Well of Ice.
Alexia Gordon, the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries
Alexia Gordon’s Gethsemane Brown Mystery series starts with Murder in G Major. When African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown is stranded in the Irish countryside, she accepts a challenging position with rowdy schoolboys, tasked with turning them into an orchestra. The job comes with a cliffside cottage. One little catch—it’s haunted. The ghost is purported to be the murdered owner of the cottage. Accused of killing his wife, and himself, he begs Gethsemane for help in clearing his name.
Sheila Connolly, the County Cork Mysteries
You cannot mention mysteries set in Ireland without acknowledging New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly and her County Cork Mysteries. You will fall in love with the Irish-American protagonist Maura Donovan and the pub she ends up at in the village where her Gran was born. Readers love starting series with the first book, so grab Buried in a Bog and you will have plenty of more to add to your reading list.
Tana French, the Dublin Murder Squad Mysteries
If you like literary mysteries with plot and intricate character development, don’t miss Tana French. Into the Woods is the first book in her Dublin Murder Squad Mysteries. The tale begins in the summer of 1984 when three children enter the woods, and only one is found, Rob Ryan, traumatized and wearing sneakers filled with blood. Twenty years later, this found boy is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad. When a twelve-year-old girl disappears in the same woods, Rob and his partner/friend Cassie Maddox must dive into the past in order to solve the drama of the present.
Clare O’Donohue, the World Spies Mysteries
Beyond the Pale is the first book in a series that bring married college professors Hollis and Finn Larsson to Ireland. It’s supposed to be a simple trip, the search for a rare manuscript, all-expenses paid. But when their contact doesn’t show, they’re left with fifty-thousand euro and a death threat. The adventure takes them throughout Ireland in search of the manuscript and the missing agent.
Ken Bruen, the Jack Taylor Mysteries
Can’t get enough of Galway? Follow author Ken Bruen’s protagonist Jack Taylor, ex-guard turned private investigator through the city. Fast-paced with a flawed but likable investigator, start with The Guards. Jack seems perfectly content to drink his life away, but that all changes when a desperate mother goes into her local bar looking for her missing daughter. The case will bring Jack into conflict with the police force he walked away from and thrust him into a mystery far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.