How good it is to feel in familiar territory when reading this novel, but with the added bonuses of a fresh outlook and originality. The writing is excellent and the suspense of the plot is maintained to the end. The novel is populated with many strong characters and leaves you with the feeling "I really want to know more about them". McGilloway also introduces a new location and setting with the Tyrone-Donegal border, between the north and south of Ireland. So strong is the novel, it’s easy to imagine "Morse’s Oxford", "Rebus’s Edinburgh" having "Devlin’s borderlands" snapping at their heels.
In a nutshell: With only a few days to go in the run up to Christmas, a teenager’s body is found in the borderlands. The first thing the attending police teams have to do is determine whether the investigation is to be managed north or south of the border. Someone in the south team recognises the girl as local, Angela Cashell, and so the investigation starts there with Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin leading. However, the involvement of the north does not end at the crime scene and the two teams have to co-operate in an investigation where there are few clues. Later, another teenager is murdered and Devlin uncovers a link to the 25 year old case of a missing prostitute. He also starts to suspect that one of his colleagues may be implicated in that old case…
There are plenty of "who", "what", "when" and "why" questions to be answered in this story, so it isn’t at all easy to anticipate the outcome, which makes for a suspenseful and satisfying read.
The characters are well drawn and no one has the perfect life. It all feels very real and very human. Devlin is devoid of fictional detective cliché – he’s a happily married man with two children, with challenges on many fronts. As the investigation ensues, a blast from the past walks into his path and offers herself up as temptation. His attention is also demanded on a couple of other cases, one being the potentially errant behaviour of the much loved and the gooey eyed Frank. This is a novel that will also bring a smile to your face and sometimes it will fill you with sadness – life is here in all its forms and McGilloway does not shy away from writing about it.
This really is a stunning début, with the further added bonus that it’s the start of a series. (See the interview below for further information.)
If you love UK based detective/mystery novels, then I think you’ll welcome this novel with open arms, keeping an eye open in the future for when the next one in the series is due.