Busy, busy times for the Dublin Murder Squad


CrimeOne would have expected a mystery novel from the Prior of Glenstal, Fr Andrew Nugent, to be conservative, a little staid, somewhat old-fashioned, but no, Second Burial is as up to date as an SSIA. It deals with racism, child sexual abuse and the problems facing immigrants in this country, and the profusion of the F-word leaves one gaping.

The story begins with the finding of a wounded Nigerian man named Shadrack in the Dublin Mountains. His leg has been amputated below the knee and he is in a bad way. He is taken to Loughlinstown Hospital, but dies soon after getting there.

The members of the Dublin Murder Squad - is there one? - who get the case are Insp Jim Quilligan, who was a Traveller in his youth, and, as his assistant, the beautiful Molly Power. They visit the area around Parnell Street - which, according to the author, is known as Little Africa - and meet Shad's younger brother, Jude.

Although he has only been in the country a short time, Jude feels it is a debt of honour to avenge his brother. Helped by an orphan boy called Pita, he sets out to do just that, and has much more success than the police. However, he nearly loses his own life in the endeavour.

Fr Nugent lived for a time in Nigeria, and there is a lot in the book about the traditions and customs of the Igbo tribe. He even sends his protagonist, Insp Quilligan, to that country in his search for Shad's killer. I would term the novel a comedy thriller, and of its type it is very good indeed.

I WOULD CALL Tana French's In the Woods a psychological thriller of suspense, and an entertaining one, too. A bit overlong perhaps, but that seems to be the trend nowadays. Once upon a time, mystery novels were roughly 192 pages in length, which added enormously to their tautness and readability.

On a glorious summer's day, three 12-year-old friends went into a wood adjoining their houses, and two of them were never seen again. The one who was found, Adam Robert Ryan, had no recollection of what had happened to him, in spite of his blood-soaked shoes and socks.

Now, some 20 years later, Rob Ryan is a member of the Dublin Murder Squad - them again! - but still cannot remember what befell him and his two pals on that summer's day so long ago. Then another 12-year-old girl is found battered to death near the same spot where the other two disappeared, and Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, are given the case.

The girl's name was Devlin, and when the two investigators interview her family, they find them to be dysfunctional in the extreme. It is always difficult, when reviewing mystery thrillers, to know how much to give away, so I'll simply say that In the Woods holds the interest throughout its long span.

The characterisation is spot-on (Cassie Maddox, for one, simply leaps from the page), the dialogue pushes the story along, and the plot is expertly fixed on to the framework of the narrative. The book's author, Tana French, is a professional actor; she can now add professional author to her CV.

Vincent Banville's last thriller was Cannon Law (New Island)

Second Burial By Andrew Nugent Hodder Headline Ireland, 275pp. €16.99 In the Woods By Tana French Hodder Headline Ireland, 485pp. €14.99