The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

Continuing in our theme of myths and literature, I happened upon a YA novel that fits in with my reading perfectly: The New Policeman by Kate Thompson.  This creative novel uses a love of traditional Irish music and the myths and legends that so often form their subject matter to create a witty and immaginative adventure story.

Here is the publishers tease:

Who knows where the time goes?

There never seems to be enough time in Kinvara, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter. When J.J.’s mother says time’s what she really wants for her birthday, J.J. decides to find her some. He’s set himself up for an impossible task . . . until a neighbor reveals a secret. There’s a place where time stands still—at least, it’s supposed to. J.J. can make the journey there, but he’ll have to vanish from his own life to do so. Can J.J. find the leak between the two worlds? Will a shocking rumor about his family’s past come back to haunt him? And what does it all have to do with the village’s new policeman . . . ?

And it worked for me.  I picked it up at the library and started reading it immediately.  It turned out to be one of those books that reminds me why I read YA fantasy fiction.  Quick reads that are creative and imaginative in ways that “adult” fantasy fiction often isn’t.

For more see below.The story opens with 15 year old J.J. Liddy wrestling with the travails of friendship in small town Ireland.  Ugly rumors about his great-grandfather come between JJ and his best friend.  This in turn causes JJ to wonder about the mysterious nature of his mother’s family – famous musicians for ages but not without their controversy – and why he knows so little about them.

Meanwhile, the titular New Policeman is struggling with his career choice.  He isn’t enjoying the job and would rather join the musicians in the pub instead of kicking them out or writing them up for disturbing the peace.  But there has to be a reason why he signed up if he could only remember it . . .

And everyone is under a lot of stress because there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to go around.  The whole world just seems to be rushing around almost blindly with little time to think or relax anymore.

JJ is doubly stressed out because the chance to make up with his best friend conflicts with the loyalty – and new found closeness – he feels to his mom after she reveals some of the unique history of her family.  When he finds out her one birthday wish is “more time” he vows to find a way to give it to her.  All these threads come together when on the way to tell his friend his family comes first he is offered a way to give her this seemingly impossible gift.

Without thinking about it all that much JJ soon finds himself in Tír na nÓg the famous Land of Eternal Youth in Celtic Myth.  And once he gets his bearings – not an easy thing in this otherworldly place – he finds things are a bit more complicated.  It turns out time is leaking from JJ’s world into Tír na nÓg with disastrous consequences for both.

The rest of the story involves JJ learning more than he ever could have imagined about his family’s past and its connection to Celtic mythology – if that is the right word for the very real creatures and characters he encounters.  All while solving the mystery of the leak and thus giving his mom her wish.  And by the end we finally find out who that mysterious New Policeman was and why his law enforcement career was doomed from the start.

Thompson does a great job of weaving all of the various threads into this adventure.  Despite being over 400 pages the book is a quick read; with short chapters – each prefaced by sheet music to a particular Irish tune – and a quick pace.  She skillfully brings to life the classic Celtic legends and characters (including Aengus Og, The Dagda, Oisin, and Pukas), introduces the reader to the basics of traditional Irish music and dance, and even manages to comment on the often exhastive nature of modern life. All of this within the confines of JJ’s adventure.

So whether you are fascinated by Celtic lore, love traditional Irish music, or just enjoy creative storytelling, there is plenty to like in The New Policemen.  Thompson’s love of Ireland – its culture, history, people, and land – comes shining through and it is inefctious.  When combined with a unique adventure story it makes for enjoyable reading.  I recommend it for readers young and old.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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