Publication Date: November 15, 2013
The Irish Revolutionary Leader Michael Collins died on August 22, 1922 at Béal na mBláth, a small village in County Cork, Ireland. Author S.M. Sigerson delves beyond the official story of an ambush presenting a new picture of the event by exploring the evidence and eye witness accounts. Can Sigerson crack this cold case?
The author, S.M. Sigerson, gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.
I had heard of Michael Collins before reading The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? but did not know the full extent of his truly fascinating story. The focus of this nonfiction work is the death of this enigmatic historical figure, but Sigerson wisely realizes that to achieve a wider audience she must preface the story with an introduction to its main character. My Dad upon finishing this deeply researched piece of non-fiction called me. “Is this true?” he asked, “It’s like a Dateline mystery!” Sigerson doesn’t sensationalize the case instead chooses to present the evidence and allow readers to draw their own logical conclusions.
Sigerson arranges, what is a very confused case for readers, from the Civil War to the ambush in which Collins was killed. None of the witnesses to the event told the same story and several of the accounts were contradictory. As a history and mystery buff I couldn’t help but keep reading. The next twist would the last before I put the book down and did whatever household chore or get some much-needed sleep. Despite the appropriate historical distance of the author, Sigerson takes a wistful opportunity to point out the loss Collins was to the Irish people. In Chapter 19 titled “What if Collins had Lived,” Sigerson points out the legacy and the true loss on that August day. Collins was enigmatic, influential and someone who truly cared for the Irish people. Collins death at the age of 31 at the hands of the putative killer or killers, robbed these people he so loved of his potential. My Dad said that upon finishing that chapter he was left stunned. He couldn’t believe how well laid out both the case and possibilities lost were.
Thankfully for this reader and my father, Sigerson lays out the political climate and historical backdrop of the time in a way that is easy to follow. The notes section at the end of the book features a list of 285 references to aid those of us not so familiar with the personality or the case. In the Kindle edition, it was easy to click back and forth and this extra gem fleshed out the case while reading. If you are not familiar with Collins, his life or his death, you will have the information to enjoy this work of nonfiction at hand and may even want to look further into the life of this influential, historical figure.The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? was beautifully written and credibly presented. There are no answers, but there are bigger questions raised and ideas put forth to question what likely generations of Irish schoolchildren have learned as a fact. If you’re a history buff or a mystery lover, you’ll enjoy reading The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?. My 68-year-old father and I thoroughly enjoyed this work of nonfiction. If you have a history lover in your life, it’s a perfect addition to any holiday gift list.
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S.M. Sigerson is a lecturer in history and social anthropology. She has been active in NGOs, electoral politics and public safety throughout her life. Since the 1970s, she has devoted on-going in-depth study to the subject of secretive interference in lawful political activity, including politically-motivated killings.