Thursday 18 January 2018

Fresh twist on the crime writing genre

Thriller: Are You Watching Me? Sinéad Crowley, Quercus, pbk, 352 pages, £12.99

Must read: RTÉs Sinead Crowley's novel hits the shelves this summer
Must read: RTÉs Sinead Crowley's novel hits the shelves this summer
Are You Watching Me? by Sinead Crowley

Myles McWeeney

Elizabeth Cafferky, a young woman with a troubled past she is trying to forget and put behind her, has been rescued from her dark past by Tom Carthy, the owner of Tír na nÓg, a drop-in centre for older men. Liz loves her work with these lonely men, but reluctantly finds herself in the limelight when a chance radio interview goes viral.

Her passion and commitment mark her out as a broadcasting star, the reluctant new darling of the Irish media. Such is her embarrassment at the attention, she barely notices a strange letter from one of her many new fans, but when one of the centre's regulars is brutally murdered in his own home, she receives another and entirely more sinister note which, in her distress at her friend's death, she destroys.

Assigned to this violent killing are Detective Sergeant Claire Boyle and her assistant Philip Flynn. A four-months-pregnant DS Boyle was the central character in Sinéad Crowley's first novel, Can Anyone Help Me?, which was published last year to considerable acclaim and shortlisted for the Crime Book of the Year in the Irish Book Awards 2014.

In Are You Watching Me? Claire is on her first day back at work after six months maternity leave, and from the beginning of the investigation into James Mannion's death, she discovers how difficult it is to balance her responsibilities as a new mother and the long hours she has always worked as an ambitious policewoman in the macho world of a garda station.

As they pursue a series of leads - Ms Crowley creates a shoal of entertaining red herrings - Boyle and Flynn finally break the case - but have they done it in time to save Liz Cafferky from her overzealous fan?

For a decade or so Ireland has been blessed with a wonderfully fragrant array of female crime writing talent, a welcome balance to the often testosterone-fuelled novels by their Irish male equivalents.

Alex Barclay, a former fashion and beauty journalist, has produced a series of gritty crime novels starting with 2003's Darkhouse featuring NYPD Joe Luchesi.

Arlene Hunt published the first of her eight noir thrillers, Vicious Circle, in 2004, while Louise Phillips made her debut in 2012 with the psychological thriller Red Ribbons and is about to publish her fourth book.

Former actress Tana French has penned five insightful psychological thrillers starting with 2007's In the Woods, while Dublin-born London-based Jane Casey has five crime books featuring Met police officer Maeve Kerrigan, and the Sunday World's crime correspondent Niamh O'Connor has given us a series of chillingly realistic crime novels set in Dublin's mean streets.

With her second DS Boyle thriller, RTÉ's arts and media correspondent now joins this august body, having created a new twist to the crime writing genre, a category she calls 'family noir'.

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