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
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
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
To sign up for our monthly newsletter, featuring new releases, book reviews and favourite articles from around the web, click here.