cruel-winterBefore I moved to Ireland last year, I spent all my life in Boston. There are real winters there. It snows in Boston, which makes the whole city a real mess for a day or three. That was the only time I was glad we didn’t own a car, because it would have been a pain to dig out a car, even if you could find a parking space.

Now I live in Ireland, in West Cork, which is in the southwest part of the country. I got here last March, so this is my first winter here. It snowed.

By Boston standards this snowstorm was kind of a joke, but Ireland’s not used to snow at all. Like, the county owns about two snowplows (and it’s a big county!), which they use on the highways. Forget about all the small roads leading out into the country—a snowplow is useless there. If you live up that way—which I do—you just have to wait until the snow decides to melt before you can go home.

I don’t have a television or a radio at my house—and I don’t own a computer or even a fancy cell phone (they call them mobiles here)—so I didn’t know it was going to snow until I showed up at the pub I own, Sullivan’s, which is on a main road in Leap. The people who work for me—Mick, Jimmy, and Rose—were all there (better to use someone else’s heat than pay for your own, right?), and there were a few customers too. The pub opens at 10:30 on weekdays, and there’s always somebody stopping in. Old Billy Sheahan was there too—he lives at the other end of the building, so it’s easy for him to get to the pub. He spends most of his days in front of the fire at Sullivan’s (and we’re happy to have him).

After I got there it started to snow, and then he snow really got going, and a few more people drifted in. Some I knew, some I didn’t, but I wasn’t about to turn anybody away into a storm. By the time the power went out and the cars stopped going by on the street, we had maybe a dozen people in the place, including two young musicians from Dublin who weren’t scheduled to play until the weekend but thought they’d beat the storm. They did—barely.

And there was one maybe killer, Diane Caldwell. I told you I’m new to Cork, so I didn’t recognize her or her name, but other people in the pub took me aside and told me she was suspected of killing a neighbor near her holiday cottage not far away about twenty years back. The gardaí—that’s the police here—never arrested her because there was no evidence, or not enough, anyway. Still, everybody just assumed she was guilty. Diane went back to her home in England, and stayed there—until she came back to sell her old summer place. Then she showed up at Sullivan’s, trying to get back to the airport, which wasn’t going to happen.

So there we were, stuck in the dark. But we had plenty of coal and wood for the fire, and some old oil lamps I found in the cellar, and a kitchen out back that nobody had used for years, that Rose managed to get going so she could make soup out of what we could scrounge, and of course there was plenty to drink. So what did we do? We decided to give Diane the trial she never had.

It turned out to be a very interesting night.

You can read more about Maura in Cruel Winter, the fifth book in the “County Cork” mystery series.

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan’s small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan’s pub. But now she’s stranded in a bar full of patrons–and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder.

Maura’s been in Ireland less than a year and hasn’t heard about the decades-old unsolved crime that took place nearby, let alone the infamous suspect, Diane Caldwell. But the locals have, and they’re not happy to be trapped with her. Diane, meanwhile, seeks to set the record straight, asserting her innocence after all this time. And since no one is going anywhere in the storm, Maura encourages Diane to share her side of the story, which she’d never had a chance to do in court.

Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan’s reviews the facts and theories about the case–and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

“Move over, Agatha Christie: a pub owner in County Cork fancies herself a young Miss Marple. . . A fine read in the classic style.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Maura Donovan, the American proprietor of Sullivan’s Pub in the Irish village of Leap, offers shelter—and more—to patrons stranded by a snowstorm, in Connolly’s engaging fifth County Cork mystery.” ―Publishers Weekly

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About the author
Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated and New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly writes the Orchard Mysteries for Berkley, the County Cork Mysteries for Crooked Lane Books, and the Relatively Dead Mysteries for Beyond the Page Press. Her new Victorian Village Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press will debut in 2018. She loves genealogy and history and is happiest prowling around old cemeteries looking for ancestors. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three cats and has recently bought a holiday cottage in Ireland. Visit her on her website at and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

Cruel Winter is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Cruel Winter. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends March 20, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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