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Maggie Feeley

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Maggie Feeley is the author of Murder in the Academy, the first Alice Fox mystery published by Poolbeg in August 2021. The second book in the Alice Fox series – Just Killings – was published in October 2022. She has worked as a social researcher and educator in Ireland and is an activist on issues of gender, sexuality and equality. She was born in Roscommon, Ireland and spent much of her life in Belfast. She now lives in Dublin with her wife Ann… except for the past seven months when they have been in Catalonia where the third Alice Fox mystery takes place.


Murder in the Academy

A murder mystery with a twist of social justice.
Belfast in recovery…
Murder in the Academy by Maggie Feeley is a classic murder mystery set in the fictitious Belfast City College, located in the regenerated Titanic Quarter – the site of disaster ironically reclaimed by optimism. The city that forms the backdrop for the gripping detective action is a post-Agreement Belfast rising out of the ashes of its industrial past and slowly coming to terms with the legacy of the years of conflict. The Department of Peace and Reconciliation, known by its acronym – DePRec, is making international academic mileage out of its multidisciplinary study of post conflict situations. A new professorship is proposed to manage the increasing numbers of international students who see DePRec as a study destination of choice, and the competition is toxic. But while DePRec theory is liberally articulated the practice is not so clearly in evidence. The exemplary departmental image is then totally upset when DePRec becomes the site of a gruesome murder investigation. Is this everyday murder in the workplace another strange sign of a city in recovery?
Through the eyes of visiting US scholar, Alice Fox, we see Belfast anew as it struggles to shed its history of division and sectarianism. Detective turned academic, she works with those who have been pushed to the margins by harmful, deep-rooted systemic inequalities. When murder comes to DePRec, Alice Fox finds herself distracted from her community study of restorative justice and drawn into old patterns of when she was a detective in Lowell PD, Massachusetts. Alongside Caroline Paton of the Belfast Murder Squad, Alice plays a key support role in the investigation. She is the low-key, thoughtful collaborator who is instrumental in solving the murder mystery. In the background, Belfast epitomises the post conflict situation where unresolved animosities, evident in communities divided by sectarianism, can quickly flare into violence. Its people are friendly and helpful to strangers but the painful remnants of the past are visible everywhere on the walls and in the stubborn signs of division between poor communities. Together, the partnership of detective and scholar unravels a tangled web of deception surrounding a chilling murder.
Eminent feminist historian, Margaret Ward put it like this:
“We see the shiny new buildings, the miracle of the transformation of the Titanic quarter, but we also travel to the Falls Road and meet those who have not been beneficiaries of the partial prosperity that has come with peace. And Maggie gives us a grounded, utterly authentic portrayal of alienated young people in the EXIT project, whose experiences of reality are brilliantly articulated and contrasted with the theories expounded by the academics.

Murder in the Academy, published as part of the Poolbeg Crimson series, strives to capture the complexity of life in twenty first century Northern Ireland. The reality of the worst atrocities of war is gradually disappearing into the past but behind a cautious everyday normality there are still too many harmful social and political elements at work. Maybe what we learn is that murder is just the most obvious and immediate crime against people that has to be solved. There are less obvious, equally destructive forces still to be reckoned with before there can be any real peace.

Just Killings

Several months after her first collaboration with the Belfast Murder Squad in Murder in the Academy, Alice Fox is about to get drawn into helping to solve another mysterious Irish killing spree.
It’s 2014 and US post-doctoral scholar, Alice, has found love and is happily settled in Belfast. On the tenth floor of Belfast’s iconic Divis Tower Block, Jed, a member of Alice’s restorative justice youth project in West Belfast, is feeling deeply troubled. Her efforts to support him bring Alice into close contact with his mother, Brenda, a woman who has had more than her share of hard luck and who is just beginning to fight back. The two women establish a bond of trust that is tested in the days that follow as past harms are uncovered and motives for murder are a cause for speculation.
When two members of Catholic religious orders are found brutally murdered, in Belfast and Wicklow, Alice becomes embroiled in the investigation through her previous experience with DI Caroline Paton and the Belfast Murder Squad. Evidence of a distinctive signature at both crime scenes suggests that the two men are victims of the same meticulously organised and sadistic killer. Are the victims connected or might this be the beginning of a hate campaign against members of the Church? And if so, who will be next?
There is rarely a time in Ireland when reports of clerical and institutional abuse are not in the headlines. The Ryan Report in the south of Ireland in 2009 laid bare much of the detail of historic abuses in Irish industrial schools. It was followed in 2014 by an inquiry that covered abuse of children under 18 who lived in children’s homes, borstals, training schools, juvenile justice centres, hospitals and orphanages between 1922 and 1995 in the north of Ireland. In both jurisdictions there were those who had been harmed whose case was outside the remit of the enquiries.
Just Killings considers the context of hurt and betrayal left behind historic abuses and poses the question: is there ever such a thing as a just killing? This is a very Irish thriller but will resonate with those around the globe who have concerns about state and social harms and the lack of satisfactory resolutions to these widespread legacy issues.
As well as the usual outlets, the book is available at: https://www.bookdepository.com/Just-Killings-Maggie-Feeley/9781781994887

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