The Killing of Major Denis Mahon is the riveting true story of a controversial murder that casts new light on the Great Irish Famine. At the height of the famine now considered the greatest social disaster to strike nineteenth-century Europe, Anglo-Irish landlord Major Denis Mahon from County Roscommon was assassinated as he drove his carriage through his property, which was filled with thousands of starving tenants. Mahon had removed 3,000 of his 12,000 tenants by offering some passage to America aboard disease-ridden "coffin ships," giving others a pound or two to leave peaceably, and sending the sheriff to evict the rest. His murder sparked a sensation and drove many of the world's most powerful leaders, from the queen of England to the pope, to debate its meaning.
Award-winning journalist Peter Duffy tells, for the first time, the story of the assassination and its connection to the cataclysm that would forever change Ireland and America. With full access to historical records, including Mahon's private papers, government documents, and extensive court and police files, Duffy tries to uncover the truth about Mahon's murder and the role he did—or did not—play in the sufferings of his tenants, while also shedding new light on the horrific struggles of the starving and impoverished Irish.
Gripping, revealing, and heartbreaking, The Killing of Major Denis Mahon is the incredible investigation of the great, unsatisfactorily solved crime of Irish history, and a fresh examination of the horrors of the Great Famine.
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Peter Duffy is the author of The Bielski Brothers. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.From Publishers Weekly:
In a fading November light in 1847, the most desperate year in Irish history, an Anglo-Irish landlord named Denis Mahon—whose ancestral family demesne in County Roscommon tenanted 12,000 poor and mostly starving people—was shot and killed in a roadside ambush. Mahon was returning from a meeting to discuss funding for a workhouse, meant to provide sustenance to the victims of the potato blight—in return for work. Mahon's death has been a source of controversy ever since. Was it justified? Was Mahon himself committing slow mass murder of his tenants? Duffy (The Bielski Brothers) mounts an investigation, but more importantly, marshals his storytelling skills to render vividly the harsh realities and the alternately heartbreaking and appalling politics of the Great Famine. To Duffy's credit, his treatment is evenhanded. Yet he does not lose sight of the larger discussion that the blight engendered in Parliament, where powerful factions seized upon the crisis as an opportunity to persuade the Irish to change their ways—particularly, their loyalty to the Catholic Church. Duffy's effort falters some as he renders numbly the lengthy trial of the men accused of Mahon's murder. Now that peace is at hand between England and Ireland, the timing could not be better for this look back at a deadly blight and the failure of a powerful empire to manage the consequences. There is much here for all sides of the debate to learn. (Oct.)
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