Review: The Deadwood Encore by Kathleen Murray


Title: The Deadwood Encore
Author: Kathleen Murray
Publisher: HarperCollins Ireland
Reviewer: Róisín Russell
Pages: 340
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780008524197
Guideline Price: €17.95
Publication date: 28 April 2022
Category: Fiction


Frank Whelan, the seventh son of a seventh son, lives with his mother ‘the Mater’ and his brother Bernie but things are not going smoothly. Frank is still waiting for the healing powers he has supposedly inherited from his late father to fully manifest, while the Mater, a wonderfully eccentric and endearing character, is dealing with the loss of her husband in her own way, and Bernie is struggling with his identity. Then Frank discovers a family secret that puts everything he has come to believe about himself, and his place in the family, into question. To find the answers to his many questions, and regain a sense of who he might really be, Frank embarks on a wild, cross-country escapade that is full of cracking humour, colourful characters, dynamic colloquial dialogue and just a touch of the other-worldly.

The Deadwood Encore (HarperCollins Ireland) by Kathleen Murray is a story about legacy, family history, secrets and generational ties; about beginnings and ends, and the cyclical nature of life; about identity, finding our place in our family and our community, and the value bestowed on us by how others perceive us, versus the value we place on ourselves; about magic, superstition and tales as old as time. In Frank, Murray has created an endearing character; a character who cares deeply about his family, even if they frustrate and baffle him at times, who misses his father and often tries to channel what he might do in a certain situation, and who is yearning for some sense of reassurance that he is on the right path in life. Amidst the humour and the foray into the otherworldly is a more serious reflection on how we build our own identities, and how we find ways to rebuild these identities when they are shattered to the core. Murray beautifully captures the pleasures and pressures of small-town life, and the idiosyncratic nature of family dynamics, in language that is at times dynamic and colloquial, and at other times lilting and melodious. This first novel, from a writer who is already well established in short fiction, is a compulsive, entertaining and heartwarming read.


Hear Kathleen Murray discuss her debut novel, and more, at our Emerging Authors event at Dublin Book Festival 2022 on Sunday November 13th


If you haven’t read this yet, why not pick up a copy from The Gutter Bookshop before the event?