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on May 14, 2009
A book populated by, among many colorful characters, a homicidal priest, a progressive prime minister with a gun-running past, and a hard-drinking pooka, or faery spirit, must be unique. And D. P. Costello's long-awaited novel, The Rag Tree, is indeed that. It's a novel of Ireland, after all, and filled with all the magic, sorrow, beauty, and contradictions of that great land.
The Rag Tree is set at a time when the nation is preparing to vote on a referendum that will transform Ireland's traditional place in the world, and all the action centers around this pivotal decision by the people. Though the referendum, known as Eire Nua (New Ireland) is poised to pass, powerful forces are arrayed against it. For them, Eire Nua represents a repudiation of the past and of all the heroic struggles for freedom. These shadowy forces will stop at nothing to derail the referendum; manipulation and murder are their weapons.
Costello's deep understanding of the Irish soul gives his novel grace, and his writing is magnificent as he evokes the many shades and nuances of deep-seated sorrow, fierce Celtic pride, lyrical dreams, and God-given humor. The Rag Tree is destined to be the next great novel of Ireland.
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on July 29, 2009
The Rag Tree is mysterious, but not just because we want to find the answers to the questions Costello has artfully filled his novel with. A deeper sense of mystery swirls through the work, testing your sense of what is real and what is myth. Our hard-edge world of laptops, crime scene investigations and realpolitik coexists with pookas and curses and fairies. How do you combine these fictional sensibilities?

It certainly doesn't hurt that the novel is set in Ireland. Castles, bogs and peat fires all stretch the limits of storytelling. But beyond the setting, Costello, an accomplished musician, uses the rhythms and tones of the Irish language to charm the reader into willing acceptance. In fact, I found myself reading passages aloud for the physical experience of rolling the words around in my mouth.

But while the mix of poetry and emotion is unmistakably Celtic, this story is not just for the Irish. Costello weaves together a complex and satisfying puzzle, deftly placing the clues throughout in a way that engages the reader without slowing the flow of the narrative. And, without tipping his hand, he challenges the reader to recognize the tradeoffs between peace and culture, loyalty and honor and prosperity and loss of self. Costello may beguile us into walking difficult paths, but he plays fair with the important bits they make up our lives.
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on July 10, 2009
Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. If you know all about the Irish culture or want to, this is a must read...but it's also a complicated mystery with a great sense of humor. Can't wait for the movie!
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on March 17, 2012
My wife gave me The Rag Tree for Christmas. She knows my love of all things Ireland, especially stories set there. While there are many interesting parts of the book and a mystery that keeps moving forward, it is very difficult to follow and got too over the top at the concert scene. And I still feel that there wasn't clear resolution in the end. I did learn some things about Ireland and Irish culture, but for me, it was an average read.
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on December 10, 2012
This novel starts very well as a murder mystery with unmistakably Celtic overtones. A bad tempered faerie disguised as a bird? OK. But slowly the story unravels. Undeveloped characters, a political subplot about Eire joining the EEC (DON'T DO IT, LADS!!!!) which is foiled at a concert where a song turns the vote. Huh?
No-one is quite who they seem, which gets really tedious.
This book very badly needs an editor.
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on March 27, 2014
Ireland is at a moment in its history where it has to decide if its time to let go of its past dreams and move forward into a modern economic future. It looks like the referendum for "New Ireland" will pass, until the appearance of a character known as the Rag Man, who is cast out of the mold of Ireland's past rebel heroes, puts things into doubt.

I've taken multiple Irish Literature classes, and this is straight out of the vein of those rich Irish books that showcase the Irish struggle to move on from its past. The language is fantastic and paints a beautiful portrait of the Irish soul. At times the novel's twists and turns are hard to follow, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story.
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on July 13, 2014
I'm glad I read this book. I wasn't sure if I would like it, instead I could barely put it down. Characters that I cared about and storylines that flipped back and forth seamlessly--I love a book that keeps me guessing and this one surely did. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. I highly recommend this lovely story set in Ireland--and hope to read more from D. P. Costello. Well done!
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on November 20, 2014
If you like Irish tales, if you love a good mystery try this book. The end is worth the read, no tells, keeps you guessing. Characters are interesting and their personalities well developed to help keep you intrigued.
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on November 25, 2013
I bought this novel because I was traveling to Ireland and like to read a book, but not a pure history book, about the area I am traveling in. The novel was engrossing, if a little far-fetched, but it gave a real feel for Ireland and the "troubles". A little too neat an ending. I gave it to a friend after I got back and he enjoyed it also, even though he didn't have the added benefit of traveling through the same areas as the novel is set in.
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on January 30, 2014
This book provided me with insight into Northern Ireland's struggle self governance. The British government occupied Northern Ireland under the excuse of protecting Catholics from the Protestants. The story uses Irish expressions and terms that are explained at the end of the book.
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