Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: northern-ireland
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-08-26 10:20
A great police procedural novel set in Northern Ireland, to keep the grey cells ticking.
The Doom Murders - Brian O'Hare

I discovered Brian O’Hare and his Inspector Sheehan series thanks to the second book, 11:05 Murders, and I have been a fan ever since, reviewing the next two books in the series as well, but had not managed to catch up with the first one. As I mentioned in my last review, the author is happy to send a copy of the first book in the series to any readers interested, and he was kind enough to send me one as well. And I am very pleased about it.

I’m not surprised by the accolades and the praise bestowed on this novel. Although I’ve come to it after reading the rest of the series, and therefore I was already familiar with the characters and the setting, it has all the elements that will endear it to fans of police procedural novels and thrillers, and a few extra ones for good measure.

The story is narrated in the third person, like the rest of the series, mostly from Inspector Sheehan’s point of view, although there are parts of the novel where we share in the point of view of other characters, including members of the team and others who seem, at first, not to play a direct part in the plot, although we soon learn this is not the case. As I have mentioned when reviewing other novels in the series, the changes in point of view are not confusing or sudden, and the narration style works well because it offers readers plenty of clues, hints, and also a few red herrings that contribute to keeping the brain engaged and readers on their toes.

One of the aspects of the series I’ve always particularly enjoyed is the interaction between the members of the team, and also the teamwork involved in the investigation. Sheehan is, without a doubt, the star of the team, and his intuition/flashes of inspiration always help solve the mystery, although they are, at times, a source of frustration and puzzlement, as is the case here. Apart from a great detective, Sheehan is an inspiring leader of his men, a caring human being with his weaknesses and foibles; he is far from the ladies’ man so favoured by the detective genre, and although he does not shy away from action, he is a thinking man and spends a fair amount of time reflecting, not only upon the cases, but also about social, political, and religious matters. (He is a lapsed Roman Catholic, and the nature of the killings makes him question his own beliefs). The rest of the members of the team are also individuals in their own right, and we get to learn about their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and some details about their personal lives which are relevant to the story, because, in this case, everybody is a suspect. There are also other characters we meet, some who are regular collaborators of the team, like the medical examiner (one of my favourite characters, who always help bring a touch of lightness and fun to the proceedings), but also some introduced due to their relationship to the case, and all of them add interest to the story and play important roles later on.

The story is set in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, and the book’s setting is very important, not only because of the real locations and because how it affects the functioning of the team (Northern Ireland is part is the UK, and therefore their police force is organised in the same way as that in England), but also because the political and the religious background and tensions play a fundamental part in the plot and in the series as a whole. There are beautiful descriptions of neighbourhoods, buildings, and places, and I felt that the novel manages to give readers a good insight into the nature of both, the place and the people of Northern Ireland. At a historical moment such as this, with the Brexit discussions as one of the main items in the news, and the issue of the Irish Border as one of the stumbling stones, the novel’s background makes it even more compelling.

I’ve mentioned religion, and despite some twists and turns that point towards other possible motives, the murderer seems to be preoccupied with religion and with making a statement about the current state of affairs in the Roman Catholic Church. As I have said, thanks to the omniscient point of view, we are offered information the investigating team does not have, and readers will probably feel they are ahead and have a pretty good idea of what is going on, but the balance between what is revealed and what is not is finely tuned, and it is easy to miss clues or get stuck on one of the many possible suspects and trapped by the red herrings. I cannot discuss the ins and outs of the case or of the ending (yes, I had my suspicions, but mostly because I was at an advantage having read other books in the series, and even with that I was not all that confident and missed a few of the clues), but it fully engaged me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend anybody reading it to pay close attention to it and not to dismiss any information provided. Everything has a reason. I’d also warn readers that although the descriptions of the crimes are not graphic in the extreme, the deaths are violent and there are a number of upsetting elements in the plot, and these are realistically depicted. Readers who prefer their crime novels light should stay away from this book.

The novel flows well and the language is easy to follow, without over-the-top reliance on jargon, and terminology that might not be familiar to the reader is explained within the context of the novel. The novel moves at a good pace, but it does include moments of reflection and commentaries about the case, its ramifications, and also about the general state of affairs that allow readers to think about the events and to catch a breath. Despite the serious subject, there are also moments of fun and banter, and even what seems to be a budding romance. There are some action scenes, but there is also plenty of work following clues and examining the evidence, and that helps readers feel like true investigators and ersatz members of the team, as they eavesdrop in the discussions and come up with their own theories.

This is an excellent police procedural novel, the first in a great series, with engaging characters, in a setting that is as important as the plot, and one that shows a team of investigators readers can root for (rather than corrupt individuals or egotistical detectives only interested in their own glory). There is a lot of talk about religion, partly due to the plot, and partly to the main character’s own spiritual crisis, and this might put off some readers, although, personally, I enjoyed that aspect of the story, a likely reflection of the author’s personal journey.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-05-03 19:58
A first-rate challenge for those who love a bit of detecting and strong police-procedural novels.
The Dark Web Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries #4) - Brian O'Hare

I received an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although this is the fourth book in the Inspector Sheehan Mystery series, this is the third book I’ve read because I caught up on it in the second book, the 11:05 Murders and I have kept reading the new ones (you can check my review of The Coven Murders here, where you will also find a link to my review of the previous book). And I can confirm that I have enjoyed them all. By the way, any readers of this book who enjoy it but haven’t read the first one in the series either, I recommend you keep reading the book until the end, including the extra materials, because the author kindly offers copies of the first book to any readers who request them directly. So there’s no excuse. (And that makes me think… what am I waiting for?)

This fourth instalment in the series has all the elements fans have come to love, and any readers of police procedurals would expect to find. There are weird murders, a clever and truly twisted murderer, bizarre clues and possible motives, plenty of red herrings, twists and turns galore and a fascinating background to the story (the dark web, a pretty unique club, corruption, debauchery, blackmail... even Brexit makes an appearance!). If you love puzzles and crosswords you'll have a slight advantage when trying to solve the case, but you need to keep your wits about you and pay close attention to even the smallest details (although I must confess that I did not guess the murderer this time, and I was derailed by a red herring. In my defence, though, I did uncover one of the major clues faster than the members of the team and even the expert, but then, although I hardly do crosswords these days, I used to be a fan). 

It also has the Northern Irish setting that is always an important aspect to the stories in the series, and in this case there are no paranormal aspects, like in the last book, but we have interesting philosophical and moral debates about the nature of justice, retribution, and the risks inherent in taking the law in one’s hands.

One of my favourite aspects of the books in this series is the interaction between the members of the team, who are all unique but work together well, despite moments of tension and misunderstandings. We get to learn more about the characters, we see how even some that seemed very set in their ways have developed and play a bigger role in this novel, and I was pleased to catch up with them. That does not mean this book cannot be read as a stand-alone. In fact, the author has followed readers’ suggestions and has added a list of characters at the beginning of the book, including the members of the team and also those pertaining to the story, and he has also included terminology used by UK police, to make sure that readers not familiar with it have no difficulties following the action, making it even easier to follow. Although there are passing references to events from previous novels, these are not fundamental to the story or the development of the plot, and there is no cliff-hanger at the end either, so don’t hesitate to read the novel if you like the sound of it. My only word of caution would be that you are likely to get hooked onto the series, so, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The book is written in the third person, mostly from Sheehan’s point of view, although also from some of the other members of his team, and we also get a prologue (pay attention) and extremely intriguing blog posts interspersed in the book, which are clearly related to the action, that is narrated in chronological order. There is sufficient background provided to all the topics that come up in the story to ensure readers can enjoy it, but this does not unduly delay the action, and the writing flows well and gathers momentum as it goes along. As I’ve said, it’s impossible to read the book without getting caught up in the intrigue and debating the clues as if you were another member of the team.

This is a strong and solid police procedural, with a fascinating and pretty dark case that will suppose a first-rate challenge for those who love a bit of detecting, and look for an interesting background and characters they can root for. Another gripping book by Brian O’Hare. I am eagerly awaiting the next one.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-06-10 00:00
Paisley: Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland
Paisley: Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland - Steve Bruce I had this book on my 'to read pile' and would have turned to it in time, but suddenly - on 9th June 2017 - it leapt to my attention as Theresa May announced her desire to form a government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, which of course was Paisley's bequest to our political zoo. It is suddenly a hot issue to take a closer look at this party, so tiny in UK terms (10 Parliamentary seats from 650) but so crucial to the power sharing agreement that stands between the people of Ulster and a return to barbarism.

In order to understand Paisley's career it is necessary to accept the internal logic and the local context through which it unfolded over more than sixty turbulent years. This book takes seriously his religious and his political opinions and seeks some explanation for the trajectory of this career. It is not, therefore, as angy as it might have been, does not dwell as severely as it might have done on his failings and his share of responsibility for the mayhem around him. Similarly, it describes his evangelical and puritanical religious doctrines in respectful tones, on the basis that it is necessary to appreciate them if we are to understand how they shaped Paisley's contribution to Ulster's political and cultural life. It evaluates many of the key allegations that have been levelled against Paisley [especially the degree of his responsibility, if any, for sectarian violence] and delivers verdicts that are arguably generous but not without support. It gives a number of insights into the nature of the power sharing agreement which produced a ceasefire, disarming and commitment to democratic politics on the part of the key Catholic and Protestant terrorist groups. It describes Paisley's final incarnation as one half of the Chuckle Brothers, working alongside Martin McGuinesss to make a serious stab at building a new and inclusive politics for Ulster. Finally, it remarks on his legacy, with the rueful suggestion that the Democratic Unionist Party is less effective with his departure, while the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster is still prospering but working in less fertile soil, competing with both growing secularism and new, charismatic Christian rivals.

Paisley is a divisive figure in recent Irish and British history, a euphemistic appraisal by any standard. It is worth taking the trouble to appreciate him on his own terms, before returning to the unavoidable battle of ideas. This book lowers the heat and permits a calm appraisal. It does not demand our agreement - only our attention. I found it well worth reading.

To return to my opening comment, the conclusion I reach is that Theresa May is not well advised to lend the DUP such a priviliged and powerful position in UK politics. If their support for her failing government produces a focus on all their most unpleasant qualities, and that is necessary and unavoidable in its context, this is really not a desirable situation at all and it is not healthy for the people and politics of Ulster. It is so easy to breed hate and so hard to build trust.
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-15 14:14
Review: Those We Left Behind
Those We Left Behind - Stuart Neville

There are many lists with writing tips on the internet. Some are good, others not so much. I once came across one that had some really good advise. It also had one point that said Make everything the could go wrong go wrong. My immediate reaction after reading that was a burning desire to take out my copy of Henning Mankell's The White Lioness and hit the creator of this list over the head with it. And then force them to read the book (which would be so much more painful) and then ask if they still think that everything should go wrong. Because The White Lioness is a book where everything that can go wrong does go wrong and it's horrible.

Of course it is annoying if your characters would be dead after 10 pages if it wasn't for countless incredibly lucky circumstances and a lot of authors don't seem to get that.
However it is equally annoying if the case would be wrapped up neatly after 10 pages if it wasn't for a number of riddiculously unlucky circumstances.

I did not tell all this because I like talking that much (well I do like it but that's not the point...) but because Those We Left Behind is another of those books where just about everything goes wrong. It doesn't reach quite the level of The White Lioness but there's too many instances of people deciding to do something at the moment where it's causing the most harm. There is actually a moment about three quarters into the book where one of the boys is about to tell everything but is stopped when the DI's boss turns up just at that moment.

Additionally I couldn't really warm up to Serena Flanagan, the main character. She made some horrible and stupid decisions that were just inexcusable and even when she wasn't I just couldn't warm up to her. She's just one of the many fictional cops who is always so busy with the job that partner and children suffer. Yes it's truth in fiction but you still could copy & paste the discussions between her and her husband into a dozen other books or films without having to change anything but the names. There is nothing that makes either of them stand out from the crowd.
This is mostly because apart from Serena we have three other POV-characters: Ciaran, the boy who was convicted of the murder, Paula, Ciaran's probation-officer and David, the son of the murder-victim. Especially Ciaran gets a lot of pages and they are just so frustrating because he is such a passive character. Don't get me wrong: it makes sense that he would be but that doesn't mean reading about a character who barely does anything unless told to is any less...boring.

I still read the book in a few hours so it was engaging enough and I did want to find out how exactly it would end but I don't feel the need to pick up any following books.

ARC provided by NetGalley.

Like Reblog Comment
text 2014-09-23 20:16
Undercover by Gerard Brennan


First things first.

I’m posting this a few days before the book’s release because if you like the sound of it you’ll still be able to pick up a cheap copy. It’ll be 85p or $1.32 (including tax) if you pick one up before Thursday when Undercover will be released to the world.

Mr Brennan was kind enough to send me a copy when he saw that I’d pre-ordered. Thanks, sir.

“There’s no ‘I’ in team. There’s an ‘M’ and an ‘E’ though. In fact, it’s an anagram of ‘ta me’ as in who you should pass it to if you want to win.” Rory Cullen, CULLEN: The Autobiography

Undercover opens with an uncomfortable scene in a hostage situation. Cormac Kelly is in the unenviable position of being an undercover police officer who has infiltrated the gang who have kidnapped a father and his teenage son. It stretches Kelly’s human side to watch the treatment of the victims at the hands of the bunch of thugs he has to work for and it’s clearly not going to end well for someone. It might be easier for him to cope if the young boy who has been taken could just accept the situation, but his reactions are spirited and strong and happen to put him in a more precarious position than he needs to be.

The mother (Lydia Gallagher) of the kidnapped pair is a feisty lady who doesn’t find it easy to keep her mouth shut when faced with connections to the men responsible. She also happens to be the agent of Rory Cullen, the new signing of Manchester City Football Club. Cullen’s a course, vain man who happens to be a great striker. He’s on tour trying to sell his autobiography. With his Northern Irish nationality it’s easy for the press to make comparisons between Cullen and George Best. Cullen doesn’t make too many of those comparisons himself – he basically feels he’s better than Best (if grammar will allow that to be).

When Cormac Kelly can take no more of the hostage situation, he takes radical steps. This leads him to be on the hit-list of the mob and also as a target for the police, who believe he has gone rogue.

What follows is a thrilling ride through the streets of Belfast and London. It’s fast paced and exciting and the twists and turns of the plot are cleverly handled by the author. One can never be quite sure where Kelly is going next and the way the cleverness and experience of the man contrast with his reckless nature constantly add drama to the story. If that weren’t enough, a mercenary security expert, bent coppers and remnants of the IRA really ratchet up the tension.

Not only is this a tense read, it also has some of Brennan’s trademarks in there to ensure that it is not simply any old police thriller. This is layered with humour, dark as well as witty, and there’s a great quality to the observation of people and place throughout.

Each chapter opens with a wonderful quote from the Cullen autobiography. These snippets are so well-written that if the autobiography were ever to be published, I’d be the first in the queue to get mine.

This one’s a fabulous read and is a very worthy addition to the already bejewelled Blasted Heath list. Super stuff.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?