In Knocknasheen, an isolated village in 1920's western Donegal, the headless corpse of Finton Leary is discovered. The village elders seem disinclined to investigate the matter so Sianad, Finton's bedridden sister, decides to contact her old lover, Seamus O'Bannion, who, for the last seven years has been living in Dublin and telling her through letters of his great success as a private detective.

The truth is that for the past six years O'Bannion has not spoken a word and has been a resident patient at an infamous institute for the insane. The institute presided over by a mysterious government official, is run by the dark and ambiguous figure of Dalmaine and his psychotic and homicidal assistant Finlachen.

The letter from Sianad being smuggled in by Deirdre, a prostitute and O'Bannion's only visitor, O'Bannion decides to escape and solve Finton's murder. He takes with him Deirdre and Malachi, another inmate, an unwanted son and abused poet.

O'Bannion's fascination with detection springs from his reading of CRIMES AND THEIR SOLUTIONS a bizarre treatise on detection written by the ephemeral O'Flaherty ………...

The O'Bannion Chronicles is a surreal detective story wrapped in a cloud of literary, philosophic and political allusions. Horror and humour combine with densely textured character studies in this account of what must surely be the twentieth century's most bizarre detective.

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