Crime: Little Bones by Sam Blake
Vanessa O'Loughlin stood out from the crowd in May with the publication of this dark and juddering thriller under the pseudonym Sam Blake. The UK-born, Wicklow-based book scout and founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultants seemed to arrive fully formed as a highly proficient exponent of Garda-procedural Dublin noir but her craft has actually been in development over a number of years.
A major boon in Little Bones' appeal factor is Det Cat Connolly, O'Loughlin's protagonist who leaps from the page. Aged just 24 and a three-times all-Ireland kickboxing champion, Cat is feeling queasy as we meet her, and for a couple of reasons. A gruesome infanticide case is opening out in front of her following the discovery of a tiny skeleton sewn inside a wedding dress. It is somehow connected to the disappearance of the mother of Zoe Grant, a visual artist whose star is in the ascendant. Zoe herself might be concealing a skeleton or two in her own family cupboard, and when her grandmother, a once-powerful retail giant, is found dead in her Monkstown home, Cat's senses really start to fire.
But it's never just about the investigation in this genre, is it? Along with some border jumping, the arrival of a ruthless US criminal and some passages of wonderfully refrigerated atmospherics, Little Bones has discussions to raise via Cat and her personal life, themes that colour the contemporary-Ireland backdrop for the uninitiated. Cat is grappling with an unplanned pregnancy following a fling and if the case wasn't enough to make her feel nauseous, she is now facing down a long and uncertain road in a country where women don't have full autonomy over their wombs. O'Loughlin's foundation argument could be that cruelty takes many forms, and who would disagree?
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