hief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan is the leader of an elite crime unit of Dublin’s An Garda Síochána, known as The Bureau. She has been asked by her sister in law – who works for a human rights group called Justice Meets Justice – to look over the evidence and paperwork related to a horrific historic crime, where a teenager called Seán Hennessy was convicted of the savage murder of his mother and father, and the attempted murder of his young sister. Now, Hennessy has been released, and he is the latest cause célèbre for JMJ. Sheehan reluctantly agrees, but her attention is quickly diverted to a double murder.
Two bodies have been found in a church in the well-to-do coastal suburb of Clontarf. The victims are identified as a local woman and her husband, but their deaths seem strangely disconnected. Geraldine Shine has been stabbed, but her husband Alan was strangled, has been dead for much longer, and his corpse shows every sign of having been kept in a freezer.
Sheehan and her colleague Detective Baz Harwood are pulled every which way by a murder investigation which becomes more complicated when another body is found. Conor Sheridan has been shot, again kept in a freezer, but this time displayed at the edge of the beach, up against Clontarf’s sea wall. While looking like a mass of disconnected but tangled threads, the various strands of evidence – the CCTV footage, the forensic data, the human connections – seem to defy the weaver’s comb which will straighten them into a recognisable pattern. When Sheehan gets a glimpse of what it all means, she realises with horror that it links to the Hennessy murders and, indirectly, to her own family.
Despite its grim subject matter, The Killer In Me is a thing of beauty. I have, sadly, never been to Dublin or spent serious time with Irish people, but Olivia Kiernan gives the dialogue, particularly when people are using the vernacular, a gentle lilt.
Kiernan never lets us forget, however what savagery through which, via the eyes of Frankie Sheehan, we are wading. Her immediate boss, Assistant Commissioner Jack Clancy, gives her this sombre warning.
“Be careful with this, Frankie. Sometimes when you look into the mouth of that kind of evil, it’s hard to look away. You think, give it another few moments, your eyes will adjust, you’ll see the bottom of that darkness, understand it. It’s alluring. Addictive. And while you’re standing there rooted to the spot, you’re not noticing the fucking shadow is closing over you and you’re disappearing.”
I don’t know if Dublin Noir is ‘a thing’, but if it does exist, then The Killer In Me is its apotheosis. By the by, it is also a master-class in how to write a convincing police procedural. Sheehan shares her modus operandi when interviewing a reluctant suspect:
“We rely on a man’s capacity to always think the worst couldn’t happen. That no matter what they tell us, they will be okay. And because humans want to believe that, eventually they do begin to talk. And when they do, a tongue-tied perp can morph into a grand orator.”
ark, complex, brutal but full of compassion, The Killer In Me is breathtakingly good. It is published by riverrun (a literary imprint of Quercus) and is available now in all formats.