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BOOK REVIEW: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

Friday, May 04, 2018


The Blurb (From Goodreads):

It's been twenty years since Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her crumbling Georgian home. But he's never forgotten the two children she left behind...

When Aisling Conroy's boyfriend Jack is found in the freezing black waters of the river Corrib, the police tell her it was suicide. A surgical resident, she throws herself into study and work, trying to forget - until Jack's sister Maude shows up. Maude suspects foul play, and she is determined to prove it.

DI Cormac Reilly is the detective assigned with the re-investigation of an 'accidental' overdose twenty years ago - of Jack and Maude's drug- and alcohol-addled mother. Cormac is under increasing pressure to charge Maude for murder when his colleague Danny uncovers a piece of evidence that will change everything...

This unsettling crime debut draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can't - or won't. Perfect for fans of Tana French and Jane Casey.

My Thoughts:

For me, the best crime novels are tense, evocative reads, set somewhere misty and atmospheric that raises the hairs on your skin, with characters who are complex and alive, who you cannot help caring about, and written in terse language that nonetheless has the power to haunt you with its beauty. I want to be moved by the characters’ plight and gripped by the compulsion to know what happened, and I want to be genuinely surprised by the denouement.

It is, unsurprisingly, difficult to find all that in the one package. When I do find it, I tend to be very faithful to the author, reading every book of theirs I can find.

The Ruin, by Irish-born Australian-resident author Dervla McTiernan, gave me all that I wanted in a contemporary crime novel, but since it is her debut, I can’t rush out and buy all of her backlist. I am, however, impatiently waiting for her next book.

The story is set in Ireland, a suitably misty and atmospheric setting for me. It begins with a young rookie policeman, Cormac Reilly, discovering the corpse of a drug addict in a cold and filthy ruin of a house. It seems clear enough that she died of a drug overdose. The real trouble is what to do with her two young children. Regretfully Cormac arranges for them to go into foster care, but something about the brother and sister haunt him. He never really forgets them.

Now, many years later, Cormac is back in Galway, after having taken a demotion in order to move with his girlfriend, who has taken a plum new job in the area. He is frustrated because his new commander gives him nothing but cold cases to work on, and he wants to get his teeth into something real.

Then a body is found floating in the freezing black waters of the river. It’s a young man named Jack – and he is the little boy Cormac put into care so long ago. When the detective begins digging, he finds that Jack’s death was not a suicide, as the police believe – and that the roots of the mystery lie in the death of Jack’s mother so long ago.

I really loved the character of Cormac, who has troubles of his own but is not one of those drunk, damaged detectives that seem to have taken over so much of contemporary crime fiction lately (I am really tired of that trope, are you?) Cormac is clever, dogged, and wants to help people, and his love for his girlfriend and his willingness to make sacrifices for her makes him a very empathetic character.

Best of all, the dramatic tension in this novel never flags. I was absolutely riveted to the page, each new unexpected turn tightening the screw. And, no, I didn’t guess the murderer!

The Ruin is world-class crime fiction, and Dervla McTiernan cannot write fast enough to please me.

For another great crime thriller, check out my review of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Anonymous commented on 04-May-2018 09:49 PM
This sounds like a great read, thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Dervla McTiernsn commented on 09-May-2018 09:18 PM
Kate! I've only just read this...thank you for taking the time to read and for such a gorgeous, generous review!
John commented on 18-May-2018 08:00 PM
Just finished reading the Ruin on Kindle. 10 out of 10 from me. I can't wait for the next novel from this talented author. And great review above.
Lisa commented on 07-Jun-2018 09:46 AM
This is a brilliant book. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a fellow Corkonian! All of the characters are so well drawn, from the main compelling characters to the peripheral ones. Aisling’s mum ( a horror) suggesting to her husband that they should contact the board of examiners in case they made a mistake when she gets a great Leaving is a classic. Didn’t Dominica get a fitting end- spoiler alert! Her type would never be brought to justice, so to do her down in that way was excellent. As someone who moved to WA over 25 years ago and who loves Broome, I like the Kimberley element.

I’m on holidays in Hawaii and brought Joanna Trollope’s An Unsuitable Match and The Ruin with me. I wish I had read The Ruin first. It held my attention so well that I read it in one sitting, over a few hours. I can’t wait for Dervla’s next book. Having read the excerpt, as a pedant, I note a typo in that the word waive is mistakenly used instead of wave on the final page.

Finally, to Dervla, you could be a bit nicer in your views about Criminal Defence Lawyers. We are not all Old Nick’s handmaidens and foot soldiers y’know , girl!
Maggie IsleZ commented on 30-Sep-2018 12:56 PM
Totally agree with this review can’t wait for the sequel

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