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by Niamh O'Connor
Transworld Ireland, June 2012
368 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1848271387

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The third outing for Chief Superintendent Jo Birmingham is an altogether more confused affair than the two previous books. A woman's body is found in the mountains near Dublin, an area that is notorious for missing women. The victim is a successful solicitor living in an exclusive housing development in the suburbs that also houses the prime suspect in the case of one of the missing women. Derek Carpenter has long been suspected of the murder of his sister in law, Ellen. But Jo doesn't believe he's the guilty party and to start with, neither does his wife, Liz, but as a web of deceit grows wider around Nun's Cross, they both begin to have their doubts.

The backdrop of negative equity and dodgy mortgage practices looms large over the estate in Rathfarnham and the tangled lives of its inhabitants play a large and not wholly convincing part in the plot. I found it extremely hard to keep track of the various twists and turns of the police investigation and even harder to suspend disbelief for most of the developments and by the time I reached the end of the book, I was not much wiser than I was to start with, despite the inevitable conversations where the characters explain the plot to each other.

A series of flashbacks, time stamped and in italics, does little to advance one of the sub-plots and in many ways only serves to cause further confusion. Jo's steadfast belief in Derek Carpenter's innocence is sorely tested and yet she continues to cling to it in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Her style can probably be best described as instinctive and Jo herself as stubborn, a characteristic that gets brought out more and more through her dealings with soon-to-be-retired boss, Alfie Taylor.

Jo's relationship with fellow police officer, Dan Mason, now on sick leave, is a recurring theme in the books, as is the plot strand that has appeared in all three books, namely the question of whether DI Gavin Sexton's wife, Maura, committed suicide or was murdered. Despite this somewhat lacklustre and in places improbable addition to the series, the characters themselves and their relationships have enough going for them to draw me back again in the hope of a return to previous form.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, June 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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