Ben MacCarthy, a starstruck young fellow we first met in VENETIA KELLY’S TRAVELING SHOW, now wanders the country in search of his missing wife. Venetia’s disappearance has torn a giant hole in his heart. She vanished several years ago, leaving Ben to wonder whether she had been kidnapped or murdered. There was no entertaining the notion that she ran off on her own. Now, scouring forests for any sign of a grave, stopping everyone he meets to ask about her, Ben cannot --- or will not --- let the past go.
With an enviable job well suited to him, Ben works for the Folklore Commission. Simply worded, he travels from town to town collecting stories from the locals. One day, his path crosses that of Kate Begley, a charming young woman with a knack for bringing a man and a woman together. Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Miss Begley has set up many matches in her short life, earning her the title Matchmaker of Kenmare. Soon, the time comes for her to set up her own match. And what a match she makes for herself. Kate has American Capt. Charles Miller in her sights, and no one can deflect her when she’s determined. The wedding is quick and the honeymoon short, and all too soon Charles returns to duty.
The time is 1943. The world is in the middle of a devastating war. Ireland, though, prides herself on remaining neutral, a position that Ben and Kate naively believe in. Their wide-eyed belief ultimately puts them in mortal danger. But it seems it cannot be avoided. Kate, with the double good fortune of woman’s intuition and Irish prescience, convinces Ben to join her as she embarks on a mission to find her husband. Visions of a gravely ill Charles have Kate so worried that she has gone beyond reason and become obsessed. By now, Ben will do anything for Kate. So when she asks, he agrees, and the two burst headlong into World War II. If Kate’s wiles can help them find her husband, then maybe there is hope for Ben to find his wife. However, they first must survive the battlefields of Europe. And in the meantime, Ben may find that he thinks of Venetia less and less. Can that be a good thing?
There’s no disputing that the Irish can tell a story far better than anyone else. With their leprechauns and pots of gold, they have given the world a host of sparkling myths and legends and intricately-woven yarns. And now there’s no disputing that Irishman Frank Delaney leads the pack as master storyteller. Here, he blesses us with this epic tale of loss, friendship, romance and history, with writing so poetic you won’t want to miss a single word. The book doesn’t look very big, but it’s huge inside.
Delaney casts a thrilling spell on his readers and keeps them bewitched from the first page to the last. With his magical prose and a devilishly good plot, one can only hope that he has a further adventure in store for Ben MacCarthy.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on March 28, 2011