An Enemy of the Crown by David Burke (Mercier Press, €16.99)
Throughout the 1970s, Maurice Oldfield, head of MI6, tried to derail Charles Haughey’s political career, perceiving him to be the eponymous Crown enemy. David Burke compares Oldfield’s obsession with Haughey to that of Captain Ahab with Moby Dick and describes him as lacking “a moral compass” as he unleashed “assassins, bombers, bank robbers, blackmailers, brothel keepers and child traffickers to further London’s interests in Ireland”. Even more sinister, Oldfield was assisted by shadowy conspirators within Ireland’s security apparatus. By forming the “misconception” that Haughey was a covert IRA supporter, Oldfield’s campaign created “a whiff of sulphur” about him that paradoxically the media and public found “intriguing” and “alluring”, whereas an assault on his “precarious personal finances” might have succeeded. This well researched, clearly written book sheds light in dark places. Brian Maye
Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky by Caro Giles (Harper North, £14.99)
Once queen of the dancefloor, Caro Giles is now living in northeast England, a single mother of four young daughters and full-time carer to the eldest. Battered by the agonies of divorce and battling a bureaucratic system at odds with her children’s needs, with Covid lingering outside, Giles draws on the natural world to bring light and hope to her tightly knit tribe. In this vivid memoir she documents a tumultuous year of mothering. At night the moon offers constancy to this family in transition; by day the coastline helps them forget the challenges of daily life, drawing them into a world filled with magic, beauty and strength. Giles shows herself, her daughters and us that there is “a bigger sky than the one viewed through a window frame”. Sheila de Courcy
Riambel by Priya Hein (Indigo Press, £10.99)
“Lavi pa fasil. Life is hard.” A stone’s throw from hotels and a paradise of beaches, fifteen-year-old Noemi lives in the slums of Mauritius, where ends are met by whatever means necessary. This includes working alongside her mother as a maid at the wealthy De Grandbourg house nearby, where an encounter with a boy changes the course of her life.
It’s a vivid, sensory book, in timbre a novella, with rhythmic changes of chapters and tone, and a rapid crescendo towards its conclusion. Cassava stew, prawn curry, octopus salad — Mauritian recipes and the rhymes of Noemi’s childhood season this short breath of a narrative. On the inhale it is rich with the beauty of her world, the ugliness of the divide between rich and poor; on the exhale it is musical, powerful, and bitterly melancholic. Ruth McKee