Friday 19 January 2018

Review: Thriller: Too Close for Comfort by Niamh O’Connor

Transworld Ireland, €14.99, pbk, 368 pages
Available with free P&P on or by calling 091 709350

Detective Inspector Jo Birmingham has moved up the ranks swiftly. She's been approved for promotion to chief superintendent and in less that a week will command a division of her own.

That's why she's standing in a howling gale at the end of a remote muddy track in the Sally Gap in the Dublin Mountains watching the naked body of a woman being excavated from a hastily dug shallow grave.

The area is Ireland's most notorious body dump zone, the vanishing triangle, where a number of women have disappeared in the past. When the victim is identified as being solicitor Amanda Wells, who lived in an exclusive gated community in Templeogue called Nun's Cross, most of Jo's colleagues believe it is an open and shut case.

Derek Carpenter, a prime suspect in the old unsolved vanishing triangle cases also lives there. But Jo Birmingham is not so sure he's guilty. Her garda husband Dan, with whom she has a fragile relationship, was part of the original vanishing triangle investigation team, and ruled out Carpenter as a suspect.

Chief Superintendent Birmingham soon finds herself at loggerheads with colleague Alfie Taylor, an unreconstructed male chauvinist Guard and the man whose shoes she will fill.

With only a few days to go before retirement he wants to go out with a bang, and solving a big case like this one will enhance his earning potential in civilian life.

When Carpenter vanishes, his wife Liz, whose sister Ellen disappeared 20 years before, does everything she can to thwart Jo's investigation.

She will do anything to protect her brilliant but borderline autistic son from learning what she fears his father's secret may be.

What's more, Jo soon discovers that most of the residents of Nun's Cross have secrets they would rather not come to the attention of the Guards.

This is Niamh O'Connor's third book featuring Jo Birmingham. Her debut, If I Never See You Again, was a bestseller here and in the UK, and the follow-up, Taken, was the number two bestseller here last year. Besides being a prolific author of true crime books, O'Connor is the Sunday World newspaper's Crime Correspondent, so Too Close For Comfort is packed with authentic detail of police procedure and criminal behaviour.

There is also more than a nod to real life cases of Ireland's vanished women and to the News of the World hacking scandal in Britain in it, and O'Connor has also peppered her tale with a satisfying number of red herrings and terrific plot twists as her tale gathers pace.

Myles McWeeney

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