THE GOOD TURN by Dervla McTiernan (Harper Collins)
Dervla McTiernan’s first two novels, The Ruin and The Scholar, shot her to the top of the international crime writing tree with a host of awards, including the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original at the 2019 Bouchercon, and good sales.
The books feature Detective Cormac Reilly, a former rising star in the Dublin-based Special Detective Unit, who has returned to his home town of Galway to be with his fiance, much to the displeasure of some of his newer colleagues.
In The Good Turn, Reilly is still struggling with his move to Galway and having to deal with the resentment of those outside his team. His Superintendent, Brian Murphy, also doesn’t make his life easy, content to play office politics and showing favoritism to the task force run by his son. When a young girl is snatched off the street, Murphy refuses Reilly the extra manpower he needs. That decision leads to Peter Fisher, an inexperienced Detective in Reilly’s team, acting on his own and making a terrible mistake that could end his career. Reilly is held responsible and put on suspension, while Fisher is shunted off to work in his father’s Garda station in Roundstone, the little coastal village where he grew up.
As Cormac tries to work out what really happened with the abduction case, he finds himself side-lined and caught up in a web of corruption, while Fisher has to deal with some suspicious deaths in his new posting. Meanwhile the reader is given glimpses into the life of Anna who flees Dublin with her young daughter Tilly for a quieter and safer life in a small coastal town. Not unexpectedly, all these storylines gradually come together in unexpected ways.
The Good Turn is a very good book. It seems to be more pacier than the first two novels, but still features the same exquisite attention to plotting. The various strands of the plot are well worked out and Dervla interweaves an interesting murder mystery into the over-arching framework about drugs and corruption. Although Reilly features prominently in the book, much of the story is seen through the eyes of the exiled Peter Fisher, which adds an extra dimension to the plot.
All of the characters are well developed and credible, and regular readers of the series will be interested in the developments in Reilly’s personal life. The descriptions of Galway and Roundstone are also rich and evocative and Dervla gives a good sense of life in the small village. Although there is much focus on the progression of the various investigations, Dervla also sensitively explores some interesting themes around the value of community policing and question of where corruption starts.
The ending is perhaps a little too neat, but in all, The Good Turn is a very enjoyable read and another impressive step forward by Dervla in her development as one of the world’s best crime writers.
Four and a half stars out of five.
The Good Turn (Harper Collins, $32.99) is released in Australia on 24 February. Release dates for the United Kingdom and the United States are not yet clear.
I will be doing an ‘In Conversation’ event with Dervla at the ANU in Canberra on the evening of Friday 28 February.