Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review of The Rúin by Dervla McTiernan (Sphere, 2018)

As a fresh-faced guard, Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her ruined home, apparently dead from a drugs suicide. He takes the two children, Jack and Maude, to a local hospital where the daughter disappears. Twenty years later Reilly is back in the West, having transferred to Galway to follow his university researcher partner. He arrives to a frosty reception from his new police colleagues and is assigned to cold cases. A few weeks later and Jack Blake is dead, reported as committing suicide by leaping in the Corrib river. His partner, Aisling is devastated, but accepts the guards’ explanation until Jack’s sister, Maude, turns ups, having returned from Australia. She uncovers evidence that there is more to Jack’s death than first assumed. Reilly remembers Jack and Maude from his first fatal case, but is kept from the investigation into Jack’s death. Instead, he is asked to look into their mother’s death and the possibility that Maude killed her mother. Nothing about either case is what it seems and Reilly is swimming against the police tide in his new posting.

The Rúin is Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel, a police procedural set in Galway in the West of Ireland. There’s a kind of play on words in the title, with Rúin meaning secret in Irish, and the first body and anchor to the story being found in a ruin. The story links together an old and new case: the suicide death of a mother and twenty years later, the death of her son. The lead character is Detective Inspector Cormac Reilly, who has transferred from an elite unit in Dublin to the regional city to follow his partner. Reilly connects both cases, having discovered the mother and moved to the same station investigating the son’s death. He has been marginalised in his new role however, relegated to reviewing cold cases, and shunned by his new colleagues. He knows though when something smells off and the inquiry into Jack Blake’s death is being badly handled. McTiernan does a nice job of telling the tale, with a deep sense of foreboding throughout and plenty scheming, tangled histories and station politics that does a good concealing over the many coincidences holding the plot together. I wasn’t convinced by the denouement, but the tale is nonetheless intriguing and entertaining and an assured start to a series.

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