The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

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Book Title: 
The Ruin
ISBN: 
9781460754214
Series: 
Cormac Reilly
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Book Synopsis

Detective Sergeant Cormac Reilly has moved with his girlfriend to a new town and is once again a newbie in the ranks of the local police branch.  Tasked to cast a fresh eye over their cold cases, Cormac is diligently ploughing through the work but is keen to take on something more high profile.  It does niggle that he is not tackling anything current and that his new Galway colleagues aren’t that welcoming, but there is at least one friendly face in the office and Cormac knows he must prove his worth once again to a new audience. 

When presented with a case file from twenty years ago, Cormac is shocked to realize that as a young and fresh police officer, he was the Garda involved in the original callout.  Five year old Jack Blake was placed into foster care and as for the teenage sister Maude, that was the last anyone heard of her after the death of her mother.  It saddens Cormac to be told that the body recently found in the local river was that of the now twenty-five year old Jack Blake.  Jack’s doctor girlfriend Aisling is in shock over her partner’s death but soon has a new ally to stir things up – the newly returned Maude.

Book Review

It has been another great year for Australian crime debuts and Derval McTiernan’s The Rùin continues this run. Much like Adrian McKinty, McTiernan sets her first Cormac Reilly novel in the old country, aka Ireland. But her take, while still procedural, is more contemporary and less overtly political.

The book opens twenty years before the main action. Reilly, a fresh faced rookie policeman, is driving down a dark country road looking for the source of a call about a domestic. He does not expect what he finds – Maud, a self-possessed fifteen year old girl, her five year old brother Jack and their single mother, dead of a heroin overdose. Reilly takes the children to a local hospital where Maud disappears and Jack goes into the care system. Twenty years later, now detective Reilly moves back to Galway from Dublin where, for his sins, he is put on cold cases. After the apparent suicide of now twenty-five year old Jack and the reappearance of his sister Maud, Reilly is handed their mother’s cold case to reinvestigate.

The narrative follows not only Reilly but Aishling, Jack’s pregnant girlfriend. Aishling believes the original theory that Jack may have committed suicide but is convinced by Maud that something is not right. McTiernan explores how Aishling moves through the stages of grief and how, when she starts to get her life back together, she could track down information that may have eluded the police.

McTiernan manages to ramp up the personal pressure on both Reilly and Aishling as the revelations start to flow. Reilly has plenty of backstory, particularly his reasons for coming back to Galway, but all this is kept firmly in the background. McTiernan gives readers enough information to get the gist, and to understand why Reilly might be targeted by his colleagues, while leaving some secrets to be revealed in future instalments.

At the same time, The Rùin addresses deep wounds in the Irish psyche. The history of child sexual abuse, the role of the church and the complicity of courts, social workers and police in the system, is explored in painful detail. Everyone, adults and children alike, is scarred and there is a recognition that there is some damage that cannot be undone while many of the perpetrators remain unpunished.

The Rùin is a deftly written, page turning procedural. It is a strong start to a new Australian crime series (and there is no doubt that this will be a series – the first chapter of book two was tantalisingly included in my copy). If you are finding it hard to keep up with the number of new Australian crime writers coming onto the scene, McTiernan is definitely one to look out for.

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