A detective story with literary bite. “The Therapy House” offers, not escapism, but hard truths in fiction form.
What I like about the mystery/crime genre is its ability to morph its form, consistent in its compulsion, yet separate from any rules of genre. They can be supernatural, psychological, historical, speculative; the criminal mystery forms the through-line within it.
“The Therapy House” is a detective story. But through the eyes of the lead, former detective, Michael McLoughlin, we take a journey into the horrors of Ireland's past. An exploratory step backwards into the country's “glorious” revolution, and shine a light on those left behind in the wake of history.
Julie Parsons, has not, recently been a prolific writer. I would refer to her as a quality over quantity kind of author and though the early 2000s saw her release a number of titles, Therapy House is her first publication for 10 years. But it really was worth the wait (for those who had to wait).
The detective, Michael McLoughlin returns, now retired, his first appearance being in “Mary, Mary” back in 1998, and purchases a house next door to a supreme court judge, a judge who promptly finds himself not just murdered, but executed, just before Michael moves in. What follows is a slow paced mystery; as McLoughlin is slowly drawn into a grizzly investigation, No longer an officer, he is hired to uncover, and then possible bury, certain truths about the murdered judge. Whose sterling reputation may not be all its cracked up to be. But, this book is about more than a high profile murder.
The victims father was a “revolutionary hero” and the tale quickly begins to move backwards in time as we explore the Irish revolution through the eyes of a young serving girl, a protestant, who sees exactly what this “hero's” actions entail. Back in the present, she is an elderly woman, barely clinging to sanity. And there are too many people wanting to make sure that that McLoughlin's investigation is shut down.
Set during a heat wave, Parsons writing makes you feel every bead of sweat produced. Raising questions about the nature of heroes, and the meaning of being a public figure, as the heat grows more oppressive the narrative sinks deeper and deeper into a darkness that becomes a comment on Irish history as much a murder-mystery. Through the characters we see the full brunt of our institutions and our legacy, and not only asks was it all worth it? But also, did this even happen the way we believe it did?
Un-put-downable and deeply affecting, I found myself waking up with this book in my head. Dark, distressing and painfully honest. This isn't a novel for escapists. It is set firmly in our world. Our Ireland. And challenges you just to try and look at it the same way after you've finished reading.