You can take the Author out of Ireland

You can take the Author out of Ireland...

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

A few years ago I discovered the Irish author Dervla McTiernan with her debut novel The Ruin. It is a crimeoutline map of Ireland novel based in Galway and introducing Cormac Reilly as a Garda Detective Inspector. He returns to Galway leaving his high flying job under a cloud after 20 years spent in Dublin and is immediately haunted by a cold case he was involved in when he first started out – 2 children were found alone in an old house with their dead mother – an apparent suicide which was never proven or investigated fully. The compelling investigation is told with an authentic irish feel, the banter between the garda feels natural and recognisable to any of us from this country with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing. The Irish landscape and weather leak into the narrative and made me wonder if the author was using this as a way to reach out with nostalgia to the land of her birth. She now lives in Australia with her family having abandoned her job as a lawyer in Galway after the economic crash in Ireland. I have since learned that on the same day as she was diagnosed with a life threatening brain tumour, she received an offer of representation from a literary agent who loved her book. What a roller coaster of a day that must have been. Thankfully she found a surgeon who was willing to operate on her tumour and she has gone on to write two more novels in the Cormac Reilly series as well as a standalone legal thriller – this one based in the US.

Cormac Reilly is portrayed as the antithesis of the usual detective – he is not the typical heavy drinking, womanising, flawed character we have come to expect with the likes of Rebus and even Quirke. The author says that she wanted to create a character who is likeable, human and modern and with Cormac she has certainly done that. The Scholar and The Good Turn follow Cormac’s career and private life as he solves other cold cases with each book introducing new characters and new scenarios to keep the telling fresh and interesting.

Her most recent novel is The Murder Rule which is a departure from both the series and the country. It is a legal thriller based in a university in Virginia in the US which works with The Innocence Project – a project which re-evaluates the cases of inmates of Death Row to ensure that any wrongly convicted inmates are identified and released. A law student, Hannah, inveigles her way onto the elite Project but the reader soon realises that she has personal reasons to be involved. The transcript of a diary written 20 years previously by her mother Laura gradually reveals more and along with her friend Sean, Hannah investigates based on the knowledge she finds in her research. With her own background in criminal law the author brings an authenticity to the legal wrangling that results. The twists and turns make the ending unpredictable and I was not surprised to learn that an American television company is in the process of developing the story into a series for TV.

I, for one, have been glad to find this author. Her writing is excellent with just enough description and detail to present a nicely paced crime novel. The Irish flavour and authentic feel is the added extra that I love and I hope that Cormac continues to make an appearance in her future novels.

Dervla McTiernan books on the Libraries NI Catalogue


The Ruin by Dervla McTiernanThe Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

Can’t believe it is a year since the last Belfast Book Festival – it starts on Tues 13th June in the Crescent Arts Centre and has an exciting variety of literary related events – check out the programme on the website –


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