On a blue-skied morning in County Mayo, Ireland, a rainbow appeared over Nephin Mountain in the eastern sky. That summer day teemed with green landscapes, light breezes, and brilliant sunlight. My cousin, looked out the window, and said, “This is the perfect day for hanging laundry outside.” My sentiments exactly! Not regarding the laundry but on being outside. So, on the spur of the moment, I drove to Roonagh Quay, a few miles outside Westport, and climbed on board O’Malley’s Ferry to Clare Island. During the crossing from the mainland to the island, I sat near an open window where the wind caressed my skin. Under the cloudless sky, the blue Atlantic Ocean seemed to stretch for miles. A tiny dot, Clare Island, rested on the horizon where the ocean met the sky.
When the ferry docked, I slung my knapsack over my shoulder, walked to a nearby shop, and purchased a map of the island’s five walking trails. I chose “Walk No. 3” which was approximately two hours. I based my decision upon the time I had to spend on the island and still make the ferry back to the County Mayo mainland, later in the afternoon. The map description also played a key part in my decision: “A straightforward walk with good underfoot conditions. Normal footwear will be adequate.”
I began with Grace O’Malley’s castle. This castle, like all the O’Malley castles, perched on the island’s edge and faced the Atlantic Ocean.
From there I ascended the path to the light house. Along the way, I met a gentleman with a large black dog. The man and I chatted for a few moments when I asked him about his dog. The man was from Belgium and interestingly owned the cottages at the base of the lighthouse. Then, I walked as far as the lighthouse buildings and took a few pictures.
On the descent from the lighthouse, I looked for the abbey where Grace O’Malley is buried. Then I continued on to the Bay View Hotel where I ordered tea and sandwiches. While I enjoyed the basket of sandwiches the server placed on the table, I thought about my day. Clare Island enchanted me! The blue flag beach, the dizzying view from the cliff edges, and, yes, the sheep that littered the hillsides. I would have remained longer but I had to make the ferry back home to Castlebar.
But that’s when my “what if” popped! I wanted to write a mystery series. I wanted to set it in County Mayo, Ireland. “What if” an American inherited a cottage in County Mayo? “What if” the American came to Clare Island to search for her long-lost mother? This was the start of the Star O’Brien series.
Much of what I experienced on that day debuted in the opening scenes of Death on Clare Island: A Star O’Brien Mystery.
That morning, the sky rose beyond the sea in a luminous ultramarine palette, reminding me of Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. Treading the grassy path from the Clare Island Lighthouse bed and breakfast down to the harbor, I pictured my mother when she received a letter, many years ago from Clare Island.Star in Death on Clare Island
My trip around the island is brought to the book in the Prologue.
Matthew Sumner liked the five-hour walk around the island best of all: the danger of ignoring “Beware of Cliff Edges” signs that warned of falling to the rocky inlet below.From the Prologue in Death on Clare Island
I loved writing this book and dream of hosting a trip to Ireland with Star’s fans. I’d like to walk the island with you and visit each of the places Star goes to in this book. Until I can take that trip with you, you can take a walk around Clare Island with Star. When you subscribe to my email list, you receive a free Star O’Brien short story. Several emails later, you will receive a map of Clare Island and commentary from Star about the island and the map. .
If you are a Star O’Brien fan, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Being seen on Amazon is like being on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Each review posted, helps other readers find my work.
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