Monday, February 15, 2021


THE GOOD TURN by Dervla McTiernan (HarperCollins Australia, 2020)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Police corruption, an investigation that ends in tragedy and the mystery of a little girl's silence - three unconnected things that will prove to be linked by one small town.

While Detective Cormac Reilly faces enemies at work and trouble in his personal life, Garda Peter Fisher is relocated out of Galway with the threat of prosecution hanging over his head. But even that is not as terrible as having to work for his overbearing father, the local copper for the pretty seaside town of Roundstone.

For some, like Anna and her young daughter Tilly, Roundstone is a refuge from trauma. But even this village on the edge of the sea isn't far enough to escape from the shadows of evil men.

Western Australian author Dervla McTiernan has certainly hit the ground running; her debut novel THE RUIN came out in 2018 and went on to win Ned Kelly, Davitt, and Barry Awards. Its sequel, THE SCHOLAR, scooped an International Thriller Writers Award. 

But despite the awards decorating its predecessors, for me THE GOOD TURN is the best book, so far, of McTiernan's excellent series starring Galway copper DS Cormac Reilly. She was already a writer to watch, now she's moved into must-read status with her consistently great storytelling. While THE GOOD TURN builds on what's already happened to Reilly and some of his colleagues and loved ones in previous books, I think it could also be read as a standalone tale or your first taste of the series. 

When a lack of resources and support leads to a kidnapping case going bad, Reilly finds himself in the firing line of his bosses; he’s suspended and his protégé Peter Fisher is exiled to the Garda station of a tiny seaside town. A village long policed by Fisher’s father, and a place where a woman, Anna, and her young daughter Tilly sought refuge after fleeing Dublin. Reilly secretly digs into his suspicions of broader police corruption while Fisher does his penance in paperwork relating to two murders.

There are good, intriguing investigations running throughout THE GOOD TURN, and McTiernan does a fine job juggling multiple character perspectives and storylines in an intelligent and engaging police procedural that's soaked in Irish atmosphere. However it's the character of Reilly and how he operates in the vividly evoked setting and interacts with the other characters that is the strongest suit of a strong novel. He's an intriguing hero, besieged by bureaucracy and back-stabbers, just trying to do the right thing in tough circumstances. While that's not an uncommon character type in crime fiction, McTiernan makes it still feel fresh and interesting with the quality of her writing and characterisation. 

THE GOOD TURN is a fine novel in a very engaging series. Well worth a read. 

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. His first non-fiction book, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, was published in 2020. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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