The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

Another detective series has now spawned a third volume featuring the trials and triumphs of its hero, Cormac Reilly, a sergeant, now in his early forties working in Galway, Ireland.

The reading public, especially female, seems to have an unflagging attraction for thrillers, mysteries and police procedurals.

When they have an attractive setting, such as Edinburgh, village England, rural Ireland or the frozen cities of Scandinavia, an interesting protagonist and a convincing plot, the author is guaranteed a loyal following.

Such is Dervla McTiernan’s case.  Irish by birth, but settled now in Western Australia, she writes with an engaging authenticity. Her characters are flawed, sometimes battling demons or personal problems, but are well-rounded in the descriptions of their daily lives.

Not only are there the crimes to solve, but undercurrents and antagonistic attitudes amongst the police themselves, which adds another dimension to the tale. The station force operates far from being a harmonious team. Emotional battles, often suppressed, increase tension and make the two chief characters’ plights more real.

There is a network of criminal activity, including child abduction, paedophilia, drug dealing, police corruption as well as a frightened mother and child fleeing from a mysteriously disturbing past.

There is the experienced Cormac, a man of integrity, determined to seek justice even though it could come at great cost to his career.

Peter Fisher, much younger and lacking Reilly’s experience, is resolved to see things through, despite serious setbacks. As a policeman in the community, he encounters situations that demand cool, detached action. However, his judgements are clouded by his impetuosity. His is a kind and generous spirit which is a contrast to the hard- headed self- serving pragmatism of the older officers around him.

The two main characters, Cormac and Peter Fisher steer the plot. Cormac goes across to Dublin, then Brussels and returns to Galway.  Fisher, suspended from duties, is marooned in Roundstone, a little village on the West Coast. Their progress links the action, introduces critical developments and minor characters.

There are a host of them – the Indian family whose daughter is abducted; ambitious young policemen and women in the Galway station; Peter’s beloved Maggie, prey to the local avaricious doctor, lonely men living their simple lives in a cottage on the outskirts of Roundstone. An intriguing thread running through the book is Anna and her daughter Tilly, fleeing from some unnamed threat which has sent them desperately searching for safety far from Dublin.

In almost 400 pages, a vivid picture is described of the lives of the principal characters. One can’t avoid noting that the diet these officers follow is woefully lacking nutrition. At best it is a bland meat stew, but mostly it is biscuits or meals missed completely.

They are indeed super men, able to fulfil demanding work with little sustenance! Quite often, of course, the odd whiskey or beer is very welcome….

At one stage, there is a discussion of pubs, drinking and then driving between Peter Fisher and his father, Des who is a superior officer in Roundstone where Peter has been exiled. The father regards the social needs of the community to meet at the pub and drink, even though there is the risk to their driving home, of prime importance. On the other hand, Peter knows the dangers of drinking and driving and takes the opposite view. Their relationship is never an easy one, to say the least. 

With this third novel featuring Cormac Reilly, Dervla McTiernan proves she is indeed an accomplished writer of detective fiction. She constructs a scenario involving drugs, murder, greed and above all, corruption. All the ingredients are there – appealing characters, clever plot, original slant on familiar themes against a convincing backdrop.

There may not be snow outdoors, eight inches deep, as in The Good Turn, set in Ireland’s West Coast, but this is a book which is perfect to snuggle down and enjoy on a wet afternoon!

The Good Turn

[2020]

Dervla McTiernan

HARPERCOLLINS         

ISBN 978 1 4607 5679   9

$32.99    386 pp

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