1807533339302081

Ireland

Review - Preserve The Dead by Brian McGilloway

Detective Sergeant Lucy Black of the Derry police force leads a full and complex life. Her father is suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and has been badly beaten by another inmate at the secure unit he’s currently in. But before she can complain about his treatment a body is discovered floating in the river that passes beneath the unit. Black drags the corpse ashore. It’s an old man, fully dressed and appearing as if he’s been at a funeral.

Investigation shows the old man was dead before he went into the river. Actually he was ready to be buried and had been embalmed. So how did he end up in the river and why?

With the corpse taken away and questions swirling in her mind, Lucy heads home to her father’s house, only to get sucked into a domestic abuse case. One of her neighbours asks for help. His sister’s wife, Fiona, has been badly beaten. Lucy agrees, but she doesn’t declare herself to be police in case it scares Fiona off and makes her return to her husband. Lucy awakes the next day to find she’s landed another case. A homeless man has been found in the compacter of a rubbish truck. He’d been emptied into the truck from a bin he’d been sleeping in. Only it wasn’t the compacter that killed him. The tramp had been beaten up first.

Lucy returns to the case of the floating man. She learns someone was cremated in his place, but all they have left are the ashes and some metal pins and plates. One of the plates is from the skull and it has a large cut in it. Seemingly the person was killed by a blow to the head. With multiple mysteries on her hands Lucy carries on digging and it appears the case of the homeless man and the unidentified cremation are connected. It transpires homeless men have been going missing all over Derry, drawn towards the offer of work by a mystery man in a van. But who was cremated and why was he killed? And how is he linked to Fiona’s husband, the wife beater? What Lucy eventually finds shocks her to the core.

Preserve The Dead is the second novel featuring DS Lucy Black. From the first page she is beset with a series of issues to resolve personally and professionally. Her father has Alzheimer’s, but there’s also the a difficult relationship with her mother, who left Lucy and her father when she was eight and happens to now be the Acting Chief Constable so is ultimately Lucy’s boss. The characterisation is strong. For example, it’s particularly easy to associate with Lucy and her troubles.

The book operates well enough as a stand-alone novel with minimal reference or impact from previous story lines. The only significant element is the tension with her partner Robbie, who was previously injured in a car bomb meant for Lucy. It’s a wise aspect to add, though, as it adds another dimension to her trouble and complex life.

One slight disappointment with the book is the editing. Sometimes the diction is repetitive and there are some mangled sentences. This aside, Preserve The Dead is a very good read and will appeal to anyone who enjoys police procedurals or strong female leads. McGilloway is a rising star in the crime world, and deservedly so.

Originally reviewed for Crime Fiction Lover.

Rating: Four Stars

Review - The Point by Gerard Brennan

Paul Morgan, small time crook, crosses crime boss Mad Mickey one time too many. He’s given a week to get out of Belfast or suffer the consequences. Deciding it’s wisest to start again, Paul drags his brother Brian along to a backwater called Warrenpoint (which gives the story it’s title).

But before he departs forever, Paul steals and burns a van belonging to Mickey who can’t ignore the insult. As the brothers settle into their new life, Brian going straight, Paul finding new and increasingly serious ways to break the law, Mickey hunts them down.

I devoured this offering from Gerard Brennan. The style is pacy, direct and hard as nails. There’s an underlying sense of humour throughout that doesn’t sensationalise the criminal acts that come thick and fast.

The characters are excellently drawn, the dialogue snappy and the setting bleak. The Morgans are similar, yet different. Paul is totally incapable of changing his ways. He knows he’s in trouble from pretty much the first page, but he can’t help himself, despite the consequences this has for his brother. Brian, deep down, doesn’t particularly enjoy the seedier side of life, recognizing the consequences of his actions where Paul does not. For example he apologises to a girl the pair had scared during a robbery by putting a postcard through her door, pretending to be from the IRA and a case of mistaken identity. Misguided but actually amusing in the fashion it’s written.

Paul relishes the move to The Point where he meets another strong and defining character, Rachel O’Hare. When we first meet her, she’s exacting revenge in a rather painful manner on an imminently ex-boyfriend. Then we learn she’s receiving counseling for assaulting a fourteen year old boy who’d tried to rob her at knife point. This girl doesn’t mess around.

Unfortunately, Paul’s continued bad behavior attracts the attention of Mad Mickey’s men, forcing the trio to make a decision – stay and fight or run and start again. The resulting ending was masterful and quite a surprise.

An example of the no-nonsense prose, when the boys are out committing the burglary.

”So which one?” Brian asked.

“This one.” Paul stopped dead in his tracks and turned to his right. He walked up to the front door of number 45 and grabbed the knocker. Then he pummeled the door as if it had spilled his pint.

An excellent story cleverly told by a masterful writer.

Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.

Rating: Five Stars