Search

fullybooked2017

Tag

The Killer In Me

BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2019 . . . Best police procedural

PPheader

While police procedurals, at least in recent years, don’t tend to attract as much publicity as, say, domestic noir (or books with ’Girl’ in the title) they are the solid and dependable backbone of crime fiction. A true cynic might say that the police procedural scene is a roomfull of Detective Inspectors moaning about their desk-bound box-ticking superior officers, but in the hands of writers who are prepared to take a few risks and move away from the norm, a good police novel is hard to beat.

tkim-coverThere are some very special Irish crime writers these days. Some mine the uniquely bitter and bleak seam of Belfast, with its raw and recent memories, while further south the city of Dublin, where “the girls are so pretty”, has its fair share of malcontents and evil doers. Olivia Kiernan and her Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan were new to me, but The Killer In Me was a beguiling read. I called it “dark, complex, but full of compassion.” and the story of Sheehan’s search for a killer, while trying to decide if a newly released killer is a wrongly convicted media cause célèbre or a murderous con artist, is beautifully told.

tbwfStaying in Ireland, it has to be said that Jo Spain is ridiculously talented. She has created a bankable stock character in the affable Dublin copper Tom Reynolds, but this has not stopped her from writing such brilliant stand-alones as The Confession. In reviewing her books I have used adjectives like ‘bravura’, ‘intense’, ‘breathtaking’ and ‘mesmerising’, so will gather that I am a fan. It was good to welcome back Tom Reynolds this year in The Boy Who Fell. On one level this is a firecracker of a whodunnit, and Spain’s ability to misdirect the reader and lead us – Pied Piper-like – in the wrong direction, is proudly displayed. On a more reflective level her observations on moneyed Dublin society are sharp and salutary, as Reynolds tries to discover why a teenager died while partying with his privileged and privately educated friends.

CATGVulnerability as a character trait is perhaps more common in British fictional coppers that their American counterparts, and few fit that bill quite like James Oswald’s Edinburgh detective Tony McLean. Cold As The Grave is his ninth outing, and his quest for the truth behind a series of corpses found in strange locations in the old city brings the frayed edges of his character into focus. He has always had an awareness of the fact that there are “more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Oswald never goes full-on supernatural, but McLean is ever more aware that the solution to the Edinburgh deaths may lie beyond the dry pages of the Police Scotland training manual.

SleepwalkerIn The Sleepwalker, Joseph Knox reintroduced us to his troubled Manchester Detective Constable, Aidan Waits, who we first met in Sirens (2017) and The Smiling Man (2018). To say that Waits’s Manchester is dystopian is rather like saying that there can be a certain frisson between supporters of City and United. In The Sleepwalker it rarely seems to be daylight as the pallid and pinched faces of drug abusers and petty crimInals are caught in the flickering neon lights of the late night clubs and drinking dens. Waits and his loathsome immediate superior Sergeant Sutcliffe have been tasked with waiting at the bedside of a dying serial killer, in the hope that his final breath will reveal the burial place of one of his victims. Inevitably, everything goes bloodily wrong, and when the dust settles, and the final autopsy is done, Knox asks us – perhaps, maybe, possibly – to bid Waits a fond farewell.

PP

Click this link for a full review of Their Little Secret.

THE KILLER IN ME . . . Between the covers

TKIM header

Chief 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.

TKIM coverTwo 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.

Brogue banner

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.”

olivia-kiernanI 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.”

Dark, 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.

 

riverrun footer

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑