Smokey the Cat
Dervla McTiernan

Sixty seconds with Dervla McTiernan...

Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved from Ireland to Western Australia and turned her hand to writing. Dervla lives in Perth, with her husband, two children and far too many pets. She is the critically acclaimed author of five novels, including The Murder Rule, which was a New York Times thriller of the year, and the bestselling Cormac Reilly Series and has won numerous prizes. Dervla is also the author of four novellas, and her audio novella, The Sisters, was a four-week number one bestseller in the United States.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

McTiernan: Introverted writer (with occasional short-lived burst of extroversion), book-mad, pet-mad, mother of two.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

McTiernan: Oh god. When it comes to music I’m such a philistine. I think I’d take my ‘Classical Music for Studying’ playlist, because that’s what I play when I’m writing.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

McTiernan: I wanted to be an actor/dancer, which would have been an excellent plan except for the minor obstacle of not being able to act or dance.

Gwendolyn Kiste

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Claire Coughlan

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May 31, 2024

Happily summer is finally coming on nicely but I'm afraid we don't have the usual complement of beach reads this time around. Maybe next month. What we do have is a number of books that pleasantly surprised their readers, and a couple of disappointments considering the prior work of the author.

Let's start with the first group. Sharon Mensing was very taken with both the structure and style of THE HUNTER by Tana French, which she calls "a beautifully written, character driven, nuanced, atmospheric mystery that does not skimp on plot." Sharon was expecting this level of excellence from French, but Tracy Fernandez Rysavy thought she would be reading just another thriller filled with the standard fare of the sort that had made her give up the genre altogether. She confesses she was wrong after picking up Amy Tintera's LISTEN FOR THE LIE which she says "is one of those magical reads that delivers one surprise after another and keeps you reading well into the night (when you really should be doing other things...)"

Barbara Fister did not expect too much from THE DEEPEST LAKE by Andromeda Romano-Lax. After all, there are any number of novels about a group of well-off people enlisted in a writing workshop led by a celebrity with a mean streak. But Barbara is pleased to report that it is hard to resist the vivid world that Romano-Lax creates. In this case, the world is in Guatemala and going there is a compelling journey. As for tropical exoticism Saskatchewan is a far cry from Guatemala, but that's where I went via the second entry in Antony Bidulka's Merry Bell series, FROM SWEETGRASS BRIDGE. Bidulka writes so well that I expected to enjoy it, but I wasn't prepared for the sensitivity of its character development which brought me occasionally close to tears.

Walter Moseley's private eye Easy Rawlins first appeared in print in 1990, but his fictional life began decades earlier in post-war LA. In his latest appearance, in FAREWELL, AMETHYSTINE, it has reached 1970, and Easy is relatively established. He may have slowed a step or two but, says Mary-Jane Oltarzewski, he is still the tough guy he's always been but a little wiser than he once was.

Easy Rawlins is still alive and able to age but there is one detective that even his creator couldn't permanently kill off and that, of course, is Sherlock Holmes, who makes his latest appearance in Sam Siciliano's SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE GENTLEMAN BURGLAR. This takes Holmes to France where he encounters Arsène Lupin, the fictional gentleman thief who encountered Holmes (under a distorted version of his name) over a hundred years ago in Maurice Leblanc's second collection of stories. Rebecca Nesvet concludes that this is a satisfactory entry in the list of Holmes pastiches.

Rebecca also reviews another kind of resurrection. INTO THE NIGHT was left unfinished on Cornell Woolrich's death and completed some twenty years later by Lawrence Block. It is now being reissued as a "lost" novel. Whether it should have been left in peace is a matter of opinion, Rebecca concludes that despite its flaws or perhaps because of them, it's weirdly compelling.

Greg Iles' SOUTHERN MAN is a murder mystery and a thriller and, says Cathy Downs, also a saga as it runs to almost a thousand pages. It derives its title from a 1970 Neil Young song that asks Southern men how long they will continue their racist ways. The novel is both historical and contemporary. It is also complex and compelling, Cathy observes as she invites readers to read it and find out for themselves.

Daniel Weizmann also turned to Neil Young for the title of CINNAMON GIRL, but this second in the series featuring Lyft driver and hopeful song lyricist Adam Zantz is less ambitious and much shorter than SOUTHERN MAN. An author's second book very often does not live up to the promise of the first, and I felt this could be said of this compared to THE LAST SONGBIRD. It is certainly not a bad book, simply a bit aimless, but it is very well written so there is hope for whatever comes next.

Sharon Mensing had mixed reactions to several books she read this month. She found the current entry in Scott Graham's National Park series, DEATH VALLEY DUEL, informative but not didactic as it covers the California landscape, water issues, and ultra trail-running. Sharon's response to Charlie Donlea's LONG TIME GONE was more mixed, however. On reflection, she found some holes in the plot but Donlea's ability to maintain suspense made the book difficult to put down. Sharon was disappointed by Ruth Ware's ONE PERFECT COUPLE, which deals with murder at the set of a TV reality show. In this case, the suspense was not sufficient to disguise the lack of believability of the plot.

In case you had hopes for a beach read recommendation, don't despair. We have a couple. Lourdes Venard enjoyed NONNA MARIA AND THE CASE OF THE LOST TREASURE, by Lorenzo Carcaterra, set on an island in the sea close to Naples. Lourdes reports that it is "firmly in the cozy camp and the mysteries are not hard to unravel. But if you're a fan of Alexander McCall Smith's stories, and your mouth waters when reading descriptions of marinated mushrooms, steak pizzaiola, and fresh-baked bread, then you'll enjoy this tour through Ischia." Meredith Frazier had a good time with MURDER IN A CUP, which combines magic, spiritualism, romance, and a dog named Spirit. Additionally, there are a lot of surprises and plenty of clues.

So there it is. We wish you all a pleasant month, with time to read, picnic, swim, or snooze. But remember to come back in late June when we'll be here with more reports. And do please remember that we love to hear from you so do not hesitate to drop us an email if you have something you want us to know.

The Editors:

Yvonne Klein

Rebecca Nesvet

P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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