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: An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire

Isolated Incident.jpgEmily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident is about victims. It ignores the archetypal murder mystery template and focuses on the impact of the crime rather than its investigation. It is nuanced, respectful and impactful as it shines a necessary spotlight on male violence against women.  That said, it is far more than a fictionalised dissertation on the endemic violence plaguing society; it’s a gripping, compelling narrative brimming with true-to-life characters.

When Bella Michaels is murdered in the small Australian town of Strathdee, her older sister Chris is thrust into the centre of a media storm as she struggles to cope with impossible cruelty and meaningless of the crime. Desperate for answers, for some kind of explanation, Chris’s own life comes under scrutiny by journalists desperate for fresh angles on the story – and while she’s never been ashamed by some of the choices she’s made, certain revelations are painted in a harsh light. As time goes on, the media’s reporting becomes less about determining the perpetrator and more about using Bella’s murder as a soapbox for various, until eventually, enough time passes when the public interest fades, and Chris is left to stew in her own pot of anger, grief and suspicion.

Elegantly crafted, thought-provoking and impactful, An Isolated Incident brilliantly intertwines the traditional intrigue of the whodunit with searing insight into a crime’s impact on a personal level, and a societal one. This is why we read fiction.

ISBN: 9781743538579
Format: Paperback (233mm x 154mm x mm)
Pages: 1
Imprint: Picador Australia
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publish Date: 22-Mar-2016
Country of Publication: Australia