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by Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, April 2008
321 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0230700616

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Reading Brian McGilloway is a bit like the line in the old Crowded House song: "Always take the weather with you." Last time out in BORDERLANDS, the action took place in the depths of winter. In the new outing, though, it's May and June, and it's sweltering.

GALLOWS LANE features Benedict Devlin, an inspector in the Garda. He has to contend with old secrets, an ex-prisoner who's found god, and someone attacking young women. And it gets even nastier when James Kerr, the ex-con, is found nailed to a tree and then Devlin's investigations put his family in danger.

As with BORDERLANDS, McGilloway manages to juggle the balance of personal and private angst for the characters. There's probably more of Ben's private life this time out, which tends to portray wife Debbie as faintly petulant and dull. In fact, about the only weakness of this series to date is some rather one-dimensional characterisation across the board. Aside from Ben and his boss Costello, very few of the other characters stick in the memory for long.

McGilloway's storytelling is razor-sharp, though, and the description and the atmosphere is outstanding. One of the attractions of this series is that it's set in an out-of-the-way area the border country between Northern Ireland and the Republic. So there's the usual tensions between Gardai south of the border and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the north. And McGilloway makes excellent use of the rural setting, particularly those back roads which criss-cross the border.

One of the advantages of Macmillan's excellent New Writing series is that we are presented with books that can tell a good story and still clock in at about 300 pages or fewer. And McGilloway again demonstrates that you can weave a plausible plot and keep your reader happy within this tight set-up.

If you haven't yet discovered McGilloway, start with BORDERLANDS before moving on to GALLOWS LANE and enjoy some thoughtful and taut storytelling with an edgy tone beneath the rural setting.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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