Self Incrimination – Claire McGowan

Self Incrimination

Claire McGowan, author of the Paula Maguire series - the latest BLOOD TIDE is out now, picks Tana French's BROKEN HARBOUR for our regular Self Incrimination piece.

Posted on March 30, 2017 in Guest Author, Self incrimination
Tags: Blood Tide, Broken Harbour, Claire McGowan, Dublin Murder Squad, Paula Maguire, Tana French, self incrimination

I think every writer has that one book they will read over and over, pulling it apart, almost studying it like a textbook, trying to find out how it ticks. For me it’s Tana French’s Broken Harbour. I love all of her Dublin Murder Squad books, but this one really stayed with me and is, to my mind, the perfect crime novel. The story is both shocking and simple: a family have been attacked in their homes, and only the mother has survived, though she’s badly injured. Was it an intruder, or an inside job? As the team investigate, they realise that the shiny surface of the family hid all manner of secrets and darkness.

Image result for broken harbour tana french cover

Despite having read the book several times, I’m still not quite sure how the author makes a very straightforward crime novel so fresh and so utterly gripping. It’s all here – forensics, the obligatory autopsy scene, the detective with a dark connection to the crime (his mother drowned herself off the nearby beach on a family holiday) – but it’s as if we’re seeing it for the first time. The plot is so simple too – there are hardly any suspects, and large parts of the book are taken up with long suspect interviews.

What else do I love about it? The first-person voice of the tough, ambitious detective pulls us in, and we know from page one that this case does not go well for him. When his troubled younger sister, who witnessed their mother’s death, turns up, his personal life gets entwined with the murders. The ending is both bleak and poignant. The minor characters, including the police team, are all brilliantly drawn, and the relationship between the lead and his younger, raw colleague also becomes pivotal. There are some very chilling moments, such as when they discover the father of the family has been knocking holes in the walls of their show home, trying to find a mysterious animal. It’s a brilliant portrayal of post-recession Ireland too – the ghost estates, the sudden loss of status, and what it did to people’s lives. And of course the writing is beautiful as well as gripping – I particularly recall the description of the sea ‘rising green and muscled’.

I always recommend this series to anyone interested in writing crime – or just reading it – and although successful it’s not quite the household name it deserves to be yet. But with six books in the series now, each one fantastic, dark, and compelling, that can only be a matter of time.

Blood Tide Claire McGowan

BLOOD TIDE, the latest in Claire McGowan’s Paula Maguire series, is out now

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