A gay pub somewhere in Ireland. The day is Beltane, Lover’s Day. May 1, 1924.
Those of you who’ve read the first three mysteries know Simon by now: closeted, uptight, surly. Angry at himself, at his flat-mate Michael, and perhaps at the world. And by now you know the somewhat complicated reasons for his attitude.
As the novel opens, Michael McCree is working up to a celebration—the day one year ago he first met the brooding, drop-dead-gorgeous PI Simon Hart. His memories go back to the handsome stranger standing in his newspaper’s anteroom, come to turn in an obituary notice and an advert for a new roomer…
Michael closed his eyes and let an image dance on the inside of his lids. His own practiced fingers fitting slugs into the linotype, pushing in time with the rain pummeling the large front window of the New Dawn. A rumpled, unshaven man of about twenty-five whose eyes were uncharted stormy seas…almost as tall as he, broad of shoulder and stubbled of chin, dominating the newspaper’s outer office, not bothering to temper either his snotty tone or the surly twist of his lips.
He’d insisted on posting a funeral notice in that very day’s edition. And an advert for a flat-mate. Had this wild-eyed loony bumped off his roomer and now needed a paying substitute? Michael had decided on the spot this outrageously handsome, darkly tousled stranger needed two commodities right away—a sodding good lay and a flat-mate named Michael McCree.
For his part, Simon remembers the day, rightly enough. But for him, the anniversary is not one to celebrate.
The story was a long one. And yet he could start a scant day ago. He’d awakened yesterday with the instant knowledge it was Beltane eve. An anniversary of sorts. A date his new partner had obliquely referred to several times as though it called for some kind of romantic celebration…their first meeting, in the newspaper shop.
Simon still had a hard time piecing together those fevered days one year ago after he’d discovered the murdered body of his business partner. Try as he might, he could not remember even dressing on that long-ago morning, much less composing an obit notice and an advert for a new flat-mate. Had he perhaps slept in his suit and greatcoat? It was possible. What he did remember was the rain. After weeks of unnatural drought, the deluge seemed to be wreaking punishment on saint and sinner alike.
Has it really been one entire year?
He remembered taking his Bushmills bottle to bed each night for several days after he found Sargent sprawled across the surface of their old mahogany desk. He’d avoided both their PI office and the flat they’d shared, seeking the knotted bedding at his gentleman’s club where his old friend’s ghost was a little dimmer. He later remembered the cheeky fellow in the New Dawn anteroom because the bastard had extorted a prince’s ransom for his newspaper’s services and had the gall to pound on his door a few days later to extract even more.
For Simon, Beltane eve was the day he’d tried to soak the blood of his foxhole friend from a desk blotter. And Beltane was not the day he’d met Michael McCree. It was the day he’d set down another man’s death in indelible India ink.
And now, out of the haze of cigarette smoke and the sea of clustered dancers, steps a very thin man. A gaunt man, with shuttered eyes betraying both sickness and a world of emotional hurt. Dashiell Hammett has come to Dun Linden on a covert assignment, and he meets his old friend Michael after seven years.
So the day Dashiell Hammett walks out of the smoke of Paddy’s gay pub, he walks into the lives of two deeply conflicted men.
One reviewer, Suzana Wylie, perceptively points out:
“Each is trapped inside the snare of his emotions, straining to find a means of escape, not from each other, but toward each other.”
Hamett’s mere presence sets in motion several events which threaten to end the edgy relationship of Michael McCree and Simon Hart.
The five mysteries are here, on the new Kindle Series page: