My Guest Review for the Mean Streets blog: The Nameless Dead by Brian McGilloway

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A high-action, atmospheric procedural with plenty of twists and turns

What the blurb says: “Declan Cleary’s body has never been found, but everyone believes he was killed for informing on a friend over thirty years ago. Now the Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is following a tip-off that he was buried on the small isle of Islandmore, in the middle of the River Foyle.

Instead, the dig uncovers a baby’s skeleton, and it doesn’t look like death by natural causes. But evidence revealed by the Commission’s activities cannot lead to prosecution. Inspector Devlin is torn. He has no desire to resurrect the violent divisions of the recent past. Neither can he let a suspected murderer go unpunished.

Now the secret is out, more deaths follow. Devlin must trust his conscience – even when that puts those closest to him at terrible risk.”

Compared to the majority of police procedurals that I read, what struck me most about this story was the action-packed, fast paced style. Despite the tip-off that Inspector Devlin is following being about a murder conducted over thirty years previously, the story feels immediate and pacy right from the start. As the plot unfolds, and Devlin starts to uncover the many activities – both within and outside of the law – that Declan Cleary was connected to, he realises that this was not the straight-forward revenge killing that he had originally believed it to be.

The isle of Islandmore, or Isle of Bones as it has come to be known locally, is an atmospheric setting that adds to the brooding tone of the novel. That Islandmore is also the site of a ‘cillin’ – an unofficial burial site for unbaptized babies – adds to the sense of sadness and loss. As the story progresses, Devlin discovers that what took place at Islandmore all those years ago, still has a huge impact on the local community.

The subject matter covered in the story is evocative and main all the more chilling and heartbreaking by its closeness to real life events. When the bodies of seven children are uncovered as part of the dig for Declan Cleary’s body, Devlin wrestles with the action he believes to be right – to investigate their deaths, versus the constraints of the law by which he is bound – that no bodies found as part of a Commission’s dig can be investigated. This personal struggle shows the human, family man that Devlin is, as well as his strong commitment to the community and personal values.

This is the first of the Devlin novels that I’ve read – The Nameless Dead is the fifth in the series – but I’ll certainly be looking out for the others.

Highly recommended.

 

The Nameless Dead by Brian McGilloway is available now, published by Pan Books.

Check out this and other great reviews over on the Mean Streets Crime Fiction Blog at http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/crimefiction/

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