Simon McDonald reviews Dervla McTiernan's debut crime novel The Ruin.
In Dervla McTiernan’s debut The Ruin, an elaborate plot and vivid setting serves as mere backdrop for showcasing her greater talent: creating unforgettable, emotionally textured characters, DI Cormac Reilly chief among them, and putting them through the emotional wringer. When you think of The Ruin, think fast, furiously-paced crime solving laced with social implications that are as frightening as any chase or shootout ever put to paper. McTiernan has set the pace for every other crime writer this year.
The book opens twenty years in the past when, on his first week on the job, young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a dilapidated country house. There he finds two neglected children, fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack. Upstairs, their mother Hilaria lies dead as a result of a heroin overdose. Jack is pushed into foster care, Maude disappears, and Reilly moves on; up the career ladder and eventually away from Galway to Dublin.
Presently Reilly is back in the town he thought he’d forgotten, assigned to working cold cases at a new police station which is populated by some suspicious characters, who are more than willing to make their resentment of him known. When Jack is discovered dead as the result of a suicide at the same time Maude returns from decades away, Reilly is encouraged to delve back into the case that’s haunted him in the intervening years, tasked with finding a link between Hilaria’s death and her son’s.
This is a story of human frailties, violence and betrayal; of accepting the consequences of choices made, and managing their ripples in the future. McTiernan’s debut is assured, elegantly crafted and utterly compelling. DI Cormac Reilly’s second case can’t come soon enough.