What harm can come from a little fraud, perpetrated to help a struggling charity that supports abused children? Murder.
It is not clear how many murders there have been. And the Garda Síochána struggle to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
The caper started when Professor Finn Kelly, Ireland’s leading medieval scholar was on an assignment in the Vatican and he discovered that an obscure Order of monks were reproducing “original” illuminated manuscripts and these documents were being sold for millions. Initially he had only an academic interest in this but his research results in his meeting people who are at the heart of the production and marketing of these fake works of art. In Rome also meets Maria who is the influential Director of Facilities for Visiting Experts at the Vatican.
At first Finn struggles as to whether he should expose these fraudsters but events back in Ireland overtake his qualms and he begins to see things differently. Maybe he can use these people to help him with a copy-cat caper to save his favourite charity.
Finn, a man of considerable organisational talent, sets up a scam which will save the Ringsend Shelter for Abused Children. But he has to do this with the help of his lifelong friend Dr Sean O’Toole who writes a “lost” play from the pen of Oscar Wilde. Sean’s motives are not quite as philanthropic as Finn’s and his ability to keep his mouth shut is also suspect.
There is a murder in the University followed by what might be the accidental drowning of a senior lecturer in the Grand Canal.
The Garda Síochána make no headway with the murder enquiry and are adamant that there is no evidence that the drowning was anything other than a unfortunate accident. But Finn sees a sinister hand behind these events in the form of a Mr Joe Murphy from Boston. Finn does not know who sent Mr Murphy to Dublin but he is increasingly terrified by his presence. Has Murphy come to look after the interests of the Monks? Or is the enigmatic Cardinal who threatened Finn involved? Or is it simply the suave American art dealer? Maria, with whom Finn has not shared the secret of his fraudulent activities points out that there are connections between these men.
Finally, the situation comes to a head with two more murders, including Finn’s assassination, in the little Newman Chapel on St Stephen’s Green. Inspector Shamus Quinn, one of the leading lights in the Garda Síochána, takes control. He is a rational pragmatist who knows exactly how to get his man.
He also wants to protect the good name of the University and indeed of the Catholic Church itself.
Is the solution concocted by Quinn satisfactory? Who are the puppet masters? Is this the end of the story?