I love murder mysteries and always have. One of the sad realities of the genre is often the wrong people are murdered. There’s something delectable with books like “Murder on the Orient Express” with a victim so awful everyone is a viable suspect. In Dervla McTiernan’s The Rúin Jack Blake was such a well-liked, well-adjusted nice guy that it was easier to believe he killed himself by throwing himself off a bridge into the river than imagine anyone might have cause to kill him.
But then his sister Maura shows up after twenty years absence and insists the police investigate more, insisting he must have been murdered. She enlists Aisling, Jack’s partner, who is reeling with grief and guilt, wondering if she missed some signs Jack was troubled and whether it would be worse if he were murdered.
Meanwhile, Cormac Reilly, a successful high-flying investigator in the Irish police force, the Garda, has transferred from an elite task force in London to work in Galway. He’s following the woman he loves, but his colleagues wonder if there’s some more suspect, perhaps corrupt reason for his move. As he settles in, he’s assigned cold cases, including one he handled as a rookie, the death of Hilaria Blake twenty years earlier. She is Jack and Maura’s mother and died of an overdose, but suddenly with Jack’s death, the Garda take another look back at the past.
It is hard to believe The Rúin is Dervla McTiernan is a first-time author. It is not just her assurance and her deft handling of a complex plot. The Rúin feels like a book like a book in a series and not like the first. There’s backstory that comes from earlier in the series, from a book that has not been written–not yet anyway. That feeling of there being a story is such that I searched for her other books, none of which exist–not yet anyway.
This story has careful attention to procedural details, such as the scene where Cormac teaches his younger colleague Fisher how to collect some DNA evidence without letting the suspect know he’s suspect. This makes breaches in procedure that happen shocking, leading Cormac to suspect there’s at least one dirty cop in his house.
The Rúin is a heartrending story inspired by very real stories of widespread failure and corruption among those charged with protecting children. The power of the Catholic Chuch and its effects on women and children is everpresent from Aisling’s dilemma when she tells Jack she is pregnant right before he died. Some of these influences are quite pernicious. For example, a minor character in the story has an infant who she can see in prison until she turns one when they will put her “into care” and possibly adopted. Women’s lives are ruined by pregnancy, unable to get a job unless they give up their kids “into care” and of course, with so many children sent “into care” the care becomes careless leading to tragic outcomes.
The Rúin is fair. We get everything we need to figure this out, but it’s complicated enough that figuring out exactly how it fits together is tricky, very tricky. In all, a completely satisfying mystery that has me wanting more. Soon!
I received an e-galley of The Rúin from the publisher through Edelweiss. It will be released July 3rd.