Irish Linen tells two somewhat parallel stories in alternating chapters one set in contemporary Chicago and the other in Berlin during World War II. Both say of extraordinary individuals, motivated by love and duty.
Nuala Anne McGrail
The first story involves a young student, Desmond Doolin, missing in Iraq for well over a year. An Arabic language enthusiast, theology scholar, and Peace Corps alumni, he presumably goes to Northern Iraq to learn Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) and to help facilitate peace in the region. That was shortly before the Americans invaded Baghdad, and he hasn’t been heard of since.
Doolin’s parents contact Nuala Anne, a famous Irish singer, and immigrant happily married to Chicago native, Dermot Coyne. She is known in the neighborhood for her ability to “see” things and to solve challenging puzzles and crimes. It is evident from the first interview that Desmond’s parents do not understand him. They are dismayed that he didn’t follow their suggestion and become a stockbroker like his brother. Nuala agrees to try to find him, but the information in that problematic region is tough to come by.
Timothy Ridgeland, Irish Ambassador to Germany
The second tale is told in an old manuscript, found in the parish archives. It tells the story of Timothy Patrick Clarke, Lord Ridgeland, the Irish Ambassador to Nazi Germany. Although Ireland was a neutral country during the war, her sympathies were with England, and it is likely that, as in the book, the real ambassador worked for the cause of the Allies and peace.
In Irish Linen, Tim Ridgeland studies at Heidelberg before the war and meets the charming and aristocratic Claus Graf von Stauffenberg (a real person) and his ward, the young, beautiful, and orphaned Annalise. Later, when he returns to Germany at his country’s request, he meets them again.
Claus is now the head of the “secret Germany” and is planning a scheme to assassinate Hitler. Annalise is married to a German Air Force Captain. As Ridgeland weaves his way carefully among the many traps of wartime Germany, the three friends’ paths will cross again and again.
Irish Linen, the tenth novel to feature Nuala Anne McGrail, combines heroic, likable characters, with a great and exciting plot. As with all of Greeley’s novels, there is a subtle theological theme — a sort of battle between good and evil. Greeley is a master storyteller, with a touch of the blarney himself, whose works continue to entertain and enlighten.
About Andrew Greeley
Father Andrew Greeley is an Irish-American Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, and the prolific author of more than 50 mystery novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, mostly about Catholicism in America. His best-known mysteries feature Nuala Anne McGrail and Chicago Irish priest (and later Bishop) Blackie Ryan.
Father Greeley also writes a regular column in the Chicago Sun-Times on religious and social issues. He divides his time between teaching at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona at Tucson.