What, then, is the connection between this book's title and a small town in Donegal in the late 1940s? The answer might come in the shape of a skinny, handsome but taciturn young painter named Gianni, who is commissioned by the local priest to come all the way from Arezzo in Italy to paint the Stations of the Cross for his chapel, lodging for the duration of his stay in a house belonging to Margaret O'Donovan and her husband.
Even for the era in which the story is set, this town seems particularly insular. The townsfolk get nervous about visiting even the closest villages, and Margaret herself panicked on the first day of her honeymoon and had to come straight home. Small wonder that they respect Gianni's gumption in travelling so far with just a few words of English. This unnamed town also runs on gossip and suspicion, with everyone jockeying for position in the moral pecking order.
In a sense, it's one of the oldest stories you can get: a stranger comes into town and shakes up the status quo. We see the process from multiple viewpoints, and long before we reach Gianni's story McGuinness has built up with great skill a panoramic portrait of a community and its underlying tensions.
As for Gianni, we've already guessed that he's been deeply psychologically wounded, and it turns out that he's been subjected to cruelties that would bring tears to the eyes. And even though he's from a faraway land with its own traditions, it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to see a similar thing happening in Donegal.
But, all things considered, Gianni's presence has less of an effect than we anticipate. The introduction of this foreign element knocks the community a little out of balance, but not catastrophically or permanently. It's more like a wobble in the history of the town.
Ultimately, Arimathea feels somewhat anti-climactic, but that shouldn't dissuade potential readers from sampling McGuinness's brilliantly realised internal monologues, which bring the whole community to vivid life.