One sunlit evening, May 6 l882, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke, Chief Secretary and Undersecretary for Ireland, were ambushed and stabbed to death while strolling through Phoenix Park in Dublin. The murders were funded by American supporters of Irish independence and carried out by the Invincibles, a militant faction of republicans armed with specially-made surgeon’s blades. They ended what should have been a turning point in Anglo Irish relations. A new spirit of goodwill had been burgeoning between British Prime Minister William Gladstone and Ireland’s leader Charles Stewart Parnell, with both men forging in secret a pact to achieve peace and independence in Ireland—with the newly appointed Cavendish, Gladstone’s protégé, to play an instrumental role in helping to do so. The impact of the Phoenix Park murders was so cataclysmic that it destroyed the pact, almost brought down the government, and set in motion repercussions that would last long into the 20th century.
In a story that spans Donegal, Dublin, London, Paris, New York, Cannes and Cape Town, Julie Kavanagh thrillingly traces the crucial events that came before and after the murders. From the adulterous affair that caused Parnell’s downfall; to Queen Victoria’s prurient obsession with the assassinations; and the investigation spearheaded by Superintendent John Mallon, also known as the “Irish Sherlock Holmes,” culminating in the eventual betrayal and clandestine escape of leading Invincible James Carey and his murder on the high seas, The Irish Assassins brings us intimately into this fascinating story that shaped Irish politics and engulfed an Empire. This is an unputdownable book from one of our most “compulsively readable” (Guardian) writers.
Praise for The Irish Assassins:
“Julie Kavanagh has taken a violent and sensational event, the assassination of two senior government official in Dublin in 1882, and placed it in a richly contextualized and many-layered historical setting. Using a wide range of sources and opening up new avenues of enquiry, she vividly demonstrates the convulsive reverberations of one violent act, tracing the shock-waves it sent into political salons at Westminster, cabins in County Donegal, court circles at Windsor, revolutionary cabals in Paris, the Irish leader Parnell’s secret life in a London suburb, and the complex world of the transatlantic Irish diaspora. Consummately well-written and full of novel insights, this is the best kind of historical detective story.”—R.F. Foster, Emeritus Professor of Irish History, University of Oxford
“In The Irish Assassins, Julie Kavanagh has brilliantly succeeded in making a complex sequence of events irresistibly accessible, providing an engrossing narrative that is violent, tragic, sometimes funny, extremely astute and remarkably well written.”—Selina Hastings, author of Sybille Bedford: A Life