This week: a book that will transform how you think about salads

This week there are two thrillers set as far apart as the coast of Clare and Maine in the US. There’s a book that will transform how you think about salads, and how to create them.

There’s a psychological noir set in a shadowy foster home where safety and consolation are in short supply, and there’s a multi-generational saga exploring the experience of Chinese immigrants in America.

The Dying Time, Anthony Carragher, Book Guild Publishing, €14.99

Kate O’Connor, a successful architect, lives in a lighthouse on the coast of Clare with her husband, a successful European MP who’s away a lot, and her eight-year-old daughter. Kate realises her marriage is no longer viable and arranges a sleepover for her daughter so she can break the news to her husband, who is due to arrive home that night. But you can’t plan much with the changing moods of west of Ireland weather, so when an unexpected snowstorm whips itself up into a frenzy, it looks like hubby won’t get home. When a stranger knocks on the door in the middle of the storm, Kate’s world, and that of her family, is set to be blown apart. “How do we react when unexpected events capsize our world and threaten our very existence? I explore these ideas in my novel,” the author recently told the Limerick Leader. A tense, terse debut thriller.

Saladology, Theo Kirwan, Mitchell Beazley, €28.95

It’s that time of year when salads abound, or at least they should do. And if we’re lucky and have green fingers, some of the ingredients might be coming from our own backyard or balcony. But salads can be boring when you think of a bowl of uncooked greens, chewy and grasslike occasionally, and sometimes it feels like the only people who should be subjected to consuming them are those unfortunate dieters who must now pay the price for their food-related sins! Kirwan’s revolutionary book of recipes challenges the bowl-of-greens copout and details some genuinely appealing salads that are worth checking out. You might even ditch the spuds and mound of melting butter altogether after reading this book, beautifully produced and illustrated.

Darling Girls, Sally Hepworth, Pan, €14.99

Three girls, Jessica, Alicia and Norah, all spent time in the foster home known as Wild Meadows. The home was run by Miss Fairchild, who was a woman far from fair in her dealings with her foster children. All three girls eventually found a means of escape. Twenty-five years have passed since these girls left Wild Meadows, and human remains have now been found on the premises. The three ‘sisters’ – now grown women – all find themselves suspects in a murder case. Jessica is now taking Valium to battle her OCD problem and sometimes she steals Valium from her client’s homes. Alicia is a social worker, striving for better conditions for foster children. Norah is… well, she’s not a stereotypical upstanding member of society. The story bounces from past to present, using different characters to unravel the plot and it’s a plot with many twists and turns. Although it’s a story about the horrors of psychological abuse, but there is redemption too. These women face, for the first time, their childhood experiences head-on, and in the doing they are set somewhat free. A definite one-sitting page turner.

The Instruments of Darkness, John Connolly, Hodder and Stoughton, €16.99

This is Connolly’s 21st Charlie Parker novel (hard to believe we’re all that old) and is already being hailed by fans and ‘lit crits’ alike as his best. In rural Maine, a child goes missing, a little boy. His mother is quickly accused of the child’s murder and disposal of his remains. Enter Charlie Parker to defend the woman. He believes her – her child is missing and she had no involvement in his disappearance – but he has to prove her innocence. Enlisting the help of old familiars from previous novels, the lawyer Moxie Castin and his associates of old, Angel and Louis, Parker embarks on quite a journey. And the tension never lets up, as the plot engages both human and supernatural forces. Rather than seeing evil as the consequence of human failings or inadequacies, Connolly prefers to see it as an entity in itself, preying on vulnerable human beings. In a recent Irish Times interview, he said: “You can blame my Catholic upbringing; it’s very hard to shake. I still wear a cross.” Vintage Connolly stuff, and with the ink hardly dry, it’s already scaling the highs in the book charts.

Real Americans, Rachel Khong, Hutchinson Heinemann, €18.99

As a nation, we’ve read plenty about the Irish emigrant experience in America, from the Famine up to the present day. What was the Chinese experience like? This story starts in 1999, following the fortunes (or lack of fortune) of Lily, of Chinese parentage in New York and finding life hard as an unpaid intern. She meets wealthy Matthew and her circumstances change, although she is always aware of the imbalance in their relationship. Fast forward to 2021, and Lily and Matthew’s son, now a teenager, struggles with finding his identity. He is living with Lily, her marriage to Matthew now long over and so seeks out his father as a way of establishing his roots but, ultimately unsuccessful, he heads to San Francisco to find his maternal grandmother, May. It is May’s story, beginning in Peking University, where she was a student on the eve of China’s Cultural Revolution, that rounds off the third section of this multi-generational and often heartbreaking saga of parents wanting something better for their children.


This coming weekend the Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas takes place in County Carlow. There’s a marvellous and hugely varied lineup of guests and many events are sold out, but there’s plenty of fringe events happening on the street too. Definitely worth a look. Check out for full details.

June 16 is, of course, Bloomsday and there will be all the usual shenanigans and tomfoolery around Dublin, and Mullingar. But between June 10 and June 16 the Bloomsday Festival has a lot of interesting events focusing on Joyce’s work and his association with various spots around the city. See for details.