Tuesday 20 February 2018

Crime: A Savage Hunger by Claire McGowan

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A Savage Hunger by Claire McGowan
A Savage Hunger by Claire McGowan

Hilary A White

Barely in her mid-thirties, Rostrevor crime writer Claire McGowan has made a name for herself as a sharp exponent of Ulster noir. This fourth novel starring her forensic detective Paula Maguire follows the The Lost, The Dead Ground (both of which are being adapted for TV by the BBC) and The Silent Ground.

McGowan was fascinated by theme of hunger persistently cropping up in the Irish context; famine, hunger strikes, sinning and fasting as part of eerie religious dogma. It is all poured like molasses into this dark mystery surrounding the disappearance of the 22-year-old daughter of a Home Office life peer in McGowan's fictional border town of Ballyterrin.

The case is shrouded in peculiarities from the get-go. Alice vanished on July 31st - the Celtic festival of Lughnasa - along with a local religious relic. The day of her disappearance matches that of one Yvonne O'Neill in a cold case from the time of the Maze Hunger Strikes that bears striking similarities. Maguire and her partner Helen Corry encounter hints of anorexia, self-harm, rape and drug taking when they investigate Alice's college campus circle but no one in this world of social media and bitchiness seems to be talking straight to the detectives.

McGowan makes things interesting for Maguire by keeping her home life and impending marriage to her journalist husband a running headache, with mixed results. She does, however, brew a strong sense of the victim (via regular diary extracts) and navigates us nicely towards a chilling denouement.

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