Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Published by Penguin on May 17, 2007
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox--his partner and closest friend--find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
The set up
Rob Ryan suffered a traumatic event in 1984 when he was 12-years old and has no memory of it 20 years later. He’s a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and is assigned to a case back in the place where he experienced his nightmare. The only person who is aware of his past connection is his partner, Cassie Maddox and they have an extraordinary relationship. They now must solve the murder of a 12-year old girl, Katy Devlin, while trying to figure out if there’s any relationship to the old case.
Rob never divulges that he’s the boy from the 1984 case and Cassie has his back in keeping this information secret. As they pursue the angles of the case, it is increasingly difficult for Rob to keep his personal issues from overlapping. The current case is problematic as there’s no apparent, likely motive for Katy’s murder.
Initially, the analyses of both cases, told from Rob’s first-person point of view, was highly intriguing. After all this time he still has no recollection of what happened to him and the disappearance of his two best friends that were with him. And, his relationship with his partner made the police procedural aspects even more interesting. The author certainly has great writing skills as each character was clearly well developed, almost to a fault.
What didn’t work
This was not only the exploration of two murder cases but also the analysis of the main character, Rob Ryan. It didn’t work to try to do both. A mystery needs to be taut, suspenseful and move at a pretty good pace in order to follow the path to solving the case. When you try to combine this with the inner angst of the main character using a first-person narrative, you end up with a bogged down story that produced endless pages of minutia that weren’t always relevant. It was a 500-page story that should have been told in about 300. When I got to the end all I felt was relief it was over. I didn’t like Rob, finding him extremely self obsessed, nor did I like how the cases were concluded. It never bothers me when a story’s ending is inconclusive, if it’s true to how the characters and tale unfold. That wasn’t true here and I felt like my time was wasted with this story…left adrift without anything to anchor me on what was worthy of six days of reading time.
The bottom line
This book has won numerous, lofty awards and I was excited to start it. If it hadn’t been selected as a group read (I was responsible for leading the discussion), it would have been the second book in my life that I wouldn’t have finished. The character analysis and the procedural aspects of the case are really extraordinary…it just didn’t work to try to combine the two objectives in one book. I tired of Rob’s issues and skimmed to read about the cases. The last 1/4 of the book was very good and moved at a pace I’m normally accustomed to seeing. It’s certainly controversial as there seems to be an equal number of detractors and supporters. If you decide to read it, be prepared for an uneasy and lengthy read. I wasn’t.