The Ruin (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)
The Ruin is as much a morality tale as it is an incendiary page-turner. This superior, haunting novel of murder, deception and ethical dilemma is set in Galway, on Ireland’s west coast, and introduces Cormac Reilly into the fold of tough, outsider detectives who take crime in their city as a personal affront. And this case is particularly resonant for D I Reilly. Twenty years ago, during his first week on the job, he responded to a call at a decaying country house and found two young, mistreated children abandoned downstairs—15-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack—while upstairs their mother, Hilaria, lay dead from a heroin overdose. Jack was funnelled into foster care, Maude disappeared and Reilly moved on. Now, Jack is dead—the victim of a suicide—and Maude has reappeared in Galway. Jack’s girlfriend suspects foul play and begins a private investigation while Reilly, amid chaotic departmental politics, reopens the decades-old investigation into Hilaria’s death. For a debut, The Ruin is remarkably sure-footed, every scene building to a fine crescendo of tension, ratcheting perfectly for the explosive conclusion. Dervla McTiernan’s first novel far outclasses some of the genre’s stalwarts, marking her as a crime writer to watch, and Cormac Reilly a cop to follow to hell and back. Fans of Ian Rankin and Tana French will feel right at home.
Simon McDonald is a bookseller at Potts Point Bookshop