Review: The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

ScholarDervla McTiernan came out swinging with The Ruin (2018), but The Scholar is a knockout. A relentlessly paced, bombshell-laden plot combined with sharply-drawn, empathetic characters make this is the whodunit that should put McTiernan in the same league as Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Denise Mina and Tana French.

Doctor Emma Sweeney’s discovery of a young female hit and run victim outside Galway University late one evening is the starting point for the second mystery featuring Detective Cormac Reilly —  although it’s a slight misnomer to label this singularly as a ‘Cormac Reilly’ novel; McTiernan has concocted a brilliant ensemble cast featuring the likes of Callie O’Halloran and Peter Fisher, whose interactions and banter are a real draw. Emma Sweeney works at Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics, and her partner just so happens to be Cormac Reilly, who she calls immediately upon discovering the body, thereby compelling him to lead an investigation that otherwise would never have been assigned to him.

Even without his personal connection to the case, Reilly knows the case is going to be complicated and — worse — political when the victim is identified as Carline Darcy. As in, heir to Darcy Therapeutics Carline Darcy, whose grandfather is an incredibly influential figure, not just in Galway, but in all of Ireland. So the pressure for Reilly to close this investigation quickly, and if at all quietly, is extreme. But just as the case seems destined towards one conclusion, further evidence puts Emma Sweeney firmly in the investigator’s headlights.

McTiernan keeps every stage of the investigation clear, compelling and compulsive. Strong on atmosphere and suspense, with a vivid cast of major and minor characters, The Scholar is one hell of a read, and it’s going to take something very special indeed to deny it being my favourite crime novel of 2019. And I know, I know — I’m saying this in November 2018.

ISBN: 9781460754221
ISBN 10: 1460754220
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
On Sale: 01/03/2019
Pages: 400
List Price: 32.99 AUD

Review: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

x293In Dervla McTiernan’s debut The Ruin, an elaborate plot and vivid setting serves as mere backdrop for showcasing her greater talent: creating unforgettable, emotionally textured characters, DI Cormac Reilly chief among them, and putting them through the emotional wringer. When you think of The Ruin, think fast, furiously-paced crime solving laced with social implications that are as frightening as any chase or shootout ever put to paper. McTiernan has set the pace for every other crime writer this year.

The book opens twenty years in the past when, on his first week on the job, young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a dilapidated country house. There he finds two neglected children, fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack. Upstairs, their mother Hilaria lies dead as a result of a heroin overdose. Jack is pushed into foster care, Maude disappears, and Reilly moves on; up the career ladder and eventually away from Galway to Dublin.

Presently Reilly is back in the town he thought he’d forgotten, assigned to working cold cases  at a new police station which is populated by some suspicious characters, who are more than willing to make their resentment of him known. When Jack is discovered dead as the result of a suicide at the same time Maude returns from decades away, Reilly is encouraged to delve back into the case that’s haunted him in the intervening years, tasked with finding a link between Hilaria’s death and her son’s.


This is a story of human frailties, violence and betrayal; of accepting the consequences of choices made, and managing their ripples in the future. McTiernan’s debut is assured, elegantly crafted and utterly compelling. DI Cormac Reilly’s second case can’t come soon enough.

ISBN: 9781460754214
Format: Paperback
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 19-Feb-2018
Country of Publication: Australia