Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Rúin, by Dervla McTiernan

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Dervla McTiernan's debut tackles dark aspects of Ireland's recent history in a page-turning crime thriller.

Ireland, 1993. Young cop Cormac Reilly has been called out to a house in Kilmore, a “blink-and-you-miss it kind of village”. A young mother has died of a heroin overdose and her two children, Maude, a fifteen-year-old and Jack, a five-year-old, are waiting. The older sister, Maude, is quite self-assured considering all that has happened. Her younger brother, Jack, has been hurt and requires medical attention. She directs Reilly to take them to the hospital. That night, as Jack is being attended to, Maude disappears. She is labelled and runaway and Reilly soon forgets about this sad but not unusual case.

Twenty years later Jack is living with his girlfriend, Aisling, a professional woman who is training to be a surgeon. After the couple have a heated discussion Jack goes for a walk, but doesn't return. The police are soon involved, but Jack's sister, Maude, think they aren't doing a proper job. She has suddenly reappeared in Ireland after spending the best part of twenty years living in Australia. Confident and forthright, she practically takes over the investigation herself.

Into this drama enters Cormac Reilly. He have given up his high profile detective job in Dublin for personal reasons and has returned to a lesser role in Galway. At the Mill Street Garda Station where Reilly has been assigned (garda is Irish for police, or guard) there is a thicket of workplace politics. Reilly's new colleagues seem to be pushing their own agendas and not everyone can be trusted. As incompetent and corrupt officers deal with the disappearance of Jack Blake, Reilly hovers on the periphery of the investigation, slowly being drawn further and further in, until he finds himself at the centre of an explosive murder plot.

It's hard to believe that this is Dervla McTiernan's first novel, it's so accomplished (McTiernan moved from Ireland to Western Australia after the global financial crisis.) The characters, dialogue and settings are all compellingly believable. The plot has a wonderful richness and complexity that is backed up by nuanced psychological portraits of its key characters. This is a gripping page-turner that is greatly enchanced by its authentic sense of place and people. McTiernan creates a gloomy, moody atmosphere of moral decay as she tackles dark aspects of Ireland's recent history, most notably the consequences of its dire poverty and the sins of the church. This heady mixture of Irish social history and noir thriller makes The Rúin a winner in every sense. Sure to please crime afficionados, and even those (like this reader) who aren't.

The Rúin, by Dervla McTiernan. Published by HarperCollins. ISBN: 9781460754214 RRP: $32.99

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