Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Review of The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan (2019, Sphere)

DS Cormac Reilly’s girlfriend Emma works in a privately funded biochemical lab at Galway University. Late one evening she discovers a young woman dead in the car park outside the lab. The first person on the scene is Reilly, who quickly takes charge. There’s no indication that Emma was involved in the death, but he’s well aware of a previous accusation of murder and a traumatic past. After a year of working cold cases he’s just been shuffled back into rotation. He knows he should absence himself from the case, but his instinct is to try to quickly clear Emma from the inquiry and move the investigation forward. However, it’s soon clear that it might be a high profile case when the ID of Carline Darcy, granddaughter of the founder of Darcy Therapeutics, a hugely successful pharmaceutical company and the sponsor of the lab, is found on the victim. The company is highly secretive and only willing to give the bare minimum of help to the police and office politics are not aiding the investigation either. 

The Scholar, the second book in the DS Cormac Reilly series set in Galway, charts Reilly’s quest to clear his girlfriend’s name and catch the killer. It’s a relatively straightforward police procedural, with one major thread focusing on the young woman murdered outside of the lab, and a secondary thread concerned with tying up the loose ends of a father’s attempt to kill his family. The two intrigue points on the major thread are the involvement of Reilly’s girlfriend as the discoverer of the victim and initial suspect, and the link to Carline Darcy, whose grandfather owns Darcy Therapeutics, which sponsors the lab. Reilly should absent himself from the case but doesn’t, and Darcy Therapeutics is obstructionist and has the police and university management tip-toing around the case. It makes for some intrigue and tension, though the story is quite linear and in the end quite quickly and easily wrapped up with little sense of mystery. Instead, the tale seemed designed to provide a window onto Reilly, his relationship to Emma and her past, and fill out some of their backstory. That works fine to a point, especially since it is told in an engaging voice, but also makes the story a somewhat staged. Overall, a fairly decent second instalment to the series.

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