A Talented Man

“Beautifully written. It comes with high and glowing recommendation from me. I really, really enjoyed it… If you’re putting a book in the bag this weekend that’s the one. One of my books of the year so far.” Ryan Tubridy, RTÉ Radio 1

January 1938. Struggling to stay ahead of his creditors, disillusioned author Ellis Spender decides to forge a sequel to one of the most famous novels of all time: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He wants money, happiness and a new life abroad, and he’ll do anything to get it. A Talented Man is a page-turning psychological suspense about deception, forgery … and murder. I put together a list of books published in 1938 which I imagined the characters in A Talented Man might have read.

Featured in Irish Times ’20 books to unwind with this summer’ feature (May 2020) and the Irish Independent ‘The great escape: 50 books for an Irish summer’ (July 2020). Read an excerpt on RTÉ, my Irish Times feature on renowned frauds and forgeries, and an interview with Sean Rocks on Arena, RTÉ.

“Henrietta McKervey’s brilliant new novel is all about stories. It’s about the stories we tell regarding ourselves – are we the hero or the villain of our own lives? It’s about what gives a story value, and the ways in which a story can take on a life of its own, for better or for worse … A Talented Man is a wonderfully entertaining novel. The atmosphere of both shabby gentility and West End glamour in 1930s London is brilliantly evoked, and the narrative is tight as a drum throughout, from the opening scene in the pub to the excellent ending … McKervey’s depiction of Ellis’s immersion in the writing is compelling and convincing, and the novel asks provocative questions about authorship and authenticity. Pleasingly, we get to read several entertaining extracts from The Un-Dead Count, which show McKervey’s own gifts as a literary forger. If a long-lost Stoker manuscript ever did turn up in a suitcase full of old papers, I hope she has a good alibi.” Sunday Times

“Henrietta McKervey’s stylish, compelling new novel … charts the steps of Spender’s steady decline from callow, grandiose privilege into psychosis and murder with meticulous, Highsmithian ease. [She] draws clever, chilling parallels between the vampires assembling in The Un-Dead Count and the Nazis massing at the German borders … an utterly absorbing, atmospheric, beautifully written novel.” Irish Times

A Talented Man is situated precisely, and very pleasingly, at that nexus point between literary and genre fiction … McKervey is wonderfully perceptive on the processes, obsessions and frustrations of the creative process – it’s rare to come across a writer writing about writing without being hideously boring – and it’s easy to get swept along by Ellis’s sense of excitement and anticipation, so much that you want him to get away with this con-job … It’s a proper throat-clenching “will he get caught?” thriller storyline, given added style and depth by respectively, elegant writing and some thought-provoking explorations of identity, art, morality, the mind and the self. Patricia Highsmith is referenced by the cover bumpf, and that feels pretty accurate: A Talented Man could be an early inclusion in the Ripley series.” Irish Independent

A Talented Man, McKervey’s fourth novel, does not disappoint. … The reader is immediately pulled into the wary and suspicious mind of Ellis … McKervey’s skill lies in having the reader root for this morally vacuous character, despite his evil deeds and narcissistic equivocation. She makes him so compelling that we identify with every twisted compulsion and petty indignation swirling inside his head. We watch in horror as he covers his tracks and implicates innocent people, and still I found myself hoping he might get away with it. I was curiously drawn to his cold logic, and, as the pace of the plot picked up, I read with bated breath each new twist and turn of the story … A stylish tour de force.” Sunday Independent

“If A Talented Man sounds like a literary thriller, it flows into a blood-soaked nailbiter as Ellis’s jealousy and disquietude get the better of him. As the action moves from the house to behind the scenes at the Lyceum Theatre as well as a hop over to Ireland, McKervey reels the reader in as the romp gets into full flow. It’s unpredictable, chilling and enthralling.” The Examiner

“In A Talented Man Henrietta McKervey effortlessly takes us back to pre-war London (1938) and exquisitely tells the tale of Ellis Spender, a man with connections but short on confidence who emerges from the “wings” to take centre stage as a dark and devious lead character. This dramatic transformation occurs following a not-so-chance encounter with a stranger who previously had a link with Ellis’ rather unpleasant uncle now based in the US. Further encouragement from the pretty but unattainable lodger Janey, sets Ellis on a path where his real talents flourish but also one where he ultimately gets long overdue vengeance and a good bit more! The intricately clever story is set in the twilight years of the golden age of theatre in London but has roots in Dublin. It is a fascinating story gracefully told with a great cast of characters. A Talented Man is a clever, atmospheric thriller – you will not want to miss this!” ***** NetGalley

Violet Hill

Pat Kenny Show Eason’s Book Club choice.
Optioned for TV by Causeway Pictures.

“Henrietta McKervey is a storyteller of rare gifts. I love her writing. Violet Hill is a wonderfully assured and compelling novel, so evocative of a London that has long ceased to be, yet crackling on every page with urgently contemporary resonance and meaning. I thought it skilfully organised, thrilling, generously abundant with readerly pleasures and put together with the skill of a writer who means business and is here to stay. Seriously – I’m not kidding — I could not put it down.” Joseph O’Connor

“McKervey is a skilful, intelligent storyteller who looks at the world from fresh perspectives. She raises questions about the gap between appearance and reality, truth and fiction, surveillance and security that will stay with a reader long after they finish reading this novel.” Lia Mills

“McKervey is brilliant at evoking the sights and sounds of Edwardian London, and is particularly good when it comes to conveying the disorienting sense of an entire nation struck dumb by the catastrophic loses on the Western Front. Despite sympathising with those who find themselves haunting the realms of the supernatural in desperate search of comfort, Violet purses her relentlessly logical pursuit of explanations and answers, even if she is ultimately forced to conclude that ‘facts don’t create truth, they shadow it’.” Irish Times

“A fascinating and extremely well-written blend of historical and contemporary crime fiction.” Irish Independent

“Two women separated by a century, but their lives are connected by more than just a determination to do what’s right. An evocative and compelling read.” Irish Times 25 Great Summer Reads

“In Violet Hill by Henrietta McKervey, a page-turning detective novel, two worlds and timelines co-exist and eventually collide. Set in London, it features two very unique female detectives. The skill and attention to detail in this book allows you to escape into the post-World War I era and then back to current day with ease. Sit back and enjoy.” Sinead Moriarty, Summer Reading Feature, Irish Independent

It’s December 1918 and post-War London is grieving, the city a wound whose dressing was taken off too soon. Violet Hill, the only female private detective in the city, is hired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s business manager to uncover spiritual trickery he believes is deceiving his employer. As Violet is lured into London’s spiritualism scene, she discovers that there are powerful vested interests involved in maintaining certain delusions, and that even the most astute eye is not always beyond deception. A century later, Susanna is a Super-recogniser, one of an elite Met Police team of officers with extraordinary powers for facial recognition. After an apparently freak accident causes a head injury, this ability suddenly disappears. At home on sick leave, she begins to dig into the past lives of the Victorian house she rents in London’s Primrose Hill. As Susanna gets tangled in unexpected connections to a distant past, unawares to her a dangerous criminal, who stood to lose by a case she was working on before her injury, is at large. She no longer recognises him – but he knows who she is and where she lives.

Listen to an RTÉ interview with a real life Met Police Super Recogniser.

The Heart of Everything

Irish Times Book Club choice

“Beautifully yet simply written, fuelled by perceptive observations and raw honesty, this novel will delight fans of Anne Tyler and Maggie O’Farrell … leaves you thinking about the characters long after the last page is turned.” Sunday Independent

“A wonderful, memorable book – a tour-de-force.” Frank McGuinness

“Henrietta McKervey’s second novel … marks [her] as one to watch in Irish fiction.” Stellar magazine

“The Heart of Everything confirms McKervey’s talent for creating realistic portraits of Irish life in an engaging and highly readable style … there is an emotional truth and authentic irresolution to the novel that will satisfy even the most cynical reader” Sunday Business Post

“What impresses most is the quality of the writing, the striking images and witty turns of phrase … it’s a page turner … [Henrietta McKervey is a novelist in the early stages of her career, brimming with promise. She has wit, imagination and an understanding of human beings, which are the hallmark of the true novelist.” Irish Times

“With her keen eye for detail and her flair for words, McKervey has taken [an] important issue to create a page turning novel with real substance … This second novel confirms her place as one of Ireland’s up-and-coming writers.” Irish Examiner

When Mags Jensen disappears, soon after learning she has early-stage dementia, her three grown up children are brought together to search for their mother. Over several days, old tensions rise to the surface, harking back to an earlier tragedy that splintered the family. The Heart of Everything is a taut and compelling account of the nature of family relationships and the uneasy grasp of the past over the present. Powerful revelations take hold between the siblings and their efforts to find Mags become increasingly frantic as they are forced to ask: will they ever see their lost mother again?
Irish Times Book Club Choice

What Becomes Of Us

“This impressive debut marks the writer out as a talent able to tell a complex story with intelligence and humour.” Sunday Times

“Beautifully written… simple spare style. A lovely, lovely novel… Henrietta McKervey: I would really be watching her.” Cathy Kelly on Today with Sean O’Rourke

“A beautifully written account of a time when women, still subjugated, were determined to fight for their rights. It’s also a story of friendship, neighbourliness, what family really means, and where it can be found … All of the characters are superbly drawn” Irish Examiner

“The novel shines with intelligence and emotional insight.” Eilis Ni Dhuibhne

“A thoughtful, poignant and insightful novel … there’s a hint of Binchy in McKervey’s ability to tell a complex, entertaining story with intelligence and wit.” Irish Times

“An impressive debut … There is plenty to admire and contemplate in this enjoyable portrait of Ireland’s many-layered past.” Sunday Business Post

“An assured debut.” RTE Guide

Dublin 1965. A city on the cusp of change in a country preparing to commemorate the 1916 Rising. Maria Mills arrives from London with only a suitcase and her young daughter. Scared but hopeful, she is intent on a new life, one in which she can hide from her past. She has carefully constructed a story, based on a lie that even her daughter believes is true. When she gets a job in the fledgling broadcaster Telifis Eireann, she finds herself working on a 1916 Rising commemoration programme. Maria meets Tess McDermott, a former member of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women’s paramilitary group. Tess saw active service in the Rising yet angrily refuses to admit her involvement. Set against the backdrop of stifling social and religious mores, alongside a defiant new wave of women’s liberation, What Becomes of Us is the story of the struggle to carve out a new identity when the past refuses to let go.


6 replies on “Books”

Hi Henrietta: I’ve ordered your book and would love to know your process in getting published. I was born in Ireland but live in Newfoundland now and have 3 novels to go, one on 100 years of Irish history.
If you could point me in any kind of direction I would so appreciate it 🙂
Thank you!

Hi there. Hope you like the book! Getting published definitely has an element of luck to it in my experience, as well as a lot of submitting! If your novels are timely in terms of centenary events in history (as mine is), then maybe check out publishers who have already published centenary-related fiction? It might give you a sense of who is looking out for historical fiction these days? Good luck with it all.

Hi Henrietta,
was only talking about you recently, and Jane Anne Murray! Remember our Mss Dynan days!!
Dying to read you books!!

I present a book Programme on our local community radio station here in Lucan and I wonder if you would be interested in being interviewed on Bookline which goes out on Sunday mornings 1100-1130

I am a nurse recently retired who has worked with older people for many years with many folk suffering from dementia so have huge interest in your new book but Ialso enjoyed you previous one and reviewed it on Bookline

Hi Henrietta,

I am a friend of Andrea McCartney’s and we met while waiting for the coach to bring us to her wedding at The Premier Inn Belfast in August. We got talking and discovered that you used to work for Breastcheck,where I have worked for the past 15 years but that you were now a full time writer.

I have now purchased and read both your novels and wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed them,especially The Heart Of Everything – I loved the character of Mags and was left wanting more at the end of the book. Will you be writing a sequel? If not,are you working on anything at the moment? As someone who has tried and failed to get published in the past,I have a great admiration for anyone who manages it. Congratulations on your success and I look forward to reading your future works.

Best Wishes,

Aideen Bosonnet