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Friday, 22 January 2016

‘The Silent Dead’ by Claire McGowan

Published by Headline,
19 November 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-0440-0

Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire is back, in the most challenging case of her career. A murdered man has been found: Mickey Doyle, one of the Mayday Five bombers who walked free on a technicality. The other four are missing; but how much effort is going to be put into finding these killers?

It’s said that to learn about what really goes on in a country, crime fiction’s a good place to start. This novel brings the problems of modern Ireland vividly to life: the scars left in relatives and bystanders from many years of killing, and the determination to keep the fragile peace, even if it means accepting former killers as part of the new government. Maguire herself is still coming to terms with her mother’s disappearance, brought back to her by her advanced pregnancy, and by her father’s re-marriage. She’s a sympathetic heroine, determined to be involved in this case even though she feels like a landed whale (the book vividly described the horrors of late pregnancy throughout: size, tiredness, awkwardness, being constantly booted by a tiny foot). Maguire’s good with witnesses, particularly the damaged teenager, Kira, and her reactions express the reader’s sympathy with these survivors. The whole debate about what justice is, and how it can be achieved in so difficult a situation, is brought alive, and, in the end, resolved after a fashion: law is what we have to use to overcome our human impulses to revenge. The story is fast-moving, with Maguire’s difficulties adding extra pressure; each section follows Maguire, but ends with the story from Kira’s point-of-view, so the reader has the interest of being just a step ahead of Maguire, until the final surprise denouement. There are also extracts from one character’s book on the bombers, letting us learn more about the people who could do such a thing. The descriptions of the bomb, and the damage it caused to the people around it, are as awful as you would expect, without ever feeling gratuitious: this is the way it was.

A gripping PP which takes us into the heart of a damaged, resilient nation. This is the fourth of the Paula Maguire series. There are no spoilers from previous cases, but Paula’s turbulent personal life is on-going, so you might like to start with The Lost.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Claire McGowan is the author of three crime novels with Headline Books and a former columnist for The Irish News and the Oxford Student. She has also written for The Times, the Guardian, Easy Living, the Bookseller, Stylist, the Dublin Herald, the Irish News, Candis magazine, and the Vagenda blog. She recently turned 32 but still sometimes can’t tell her left from her right in a hurry. 

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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