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4.4 out of 5 stars168
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on 16 April 2007
Ben Devlin is a unique copper in the ranks of murder mystery writing; with a (mostly) happy family life and an easy familiarity with his small community which never borders on the arch, he still evidences the kind of common sense thinking and popular misconceptions about the modern world that make him instantly relatable and much more than just a device for the author's omniscience. He's incredibly likeable, but has enough of the poet about him that he remains compelling enough to follow, in this short debut novel from McGilloway. The plot is tightly structured and meticulously paced for the most part; the first two thirds of the book follow an almost linear and procedural progression which keeps the seasoned reader happily immersed in their own suspicions. If the book has a flaw it is in the final pages, where possibly too many twists in too short a time stretch the believability slightly. Still, I didn't see the end coming. A wonderful subplot with the family dog provides an elegant allegory for the larger issues in the book and shows just how sophisticated a writer McGillway is and how good this ongoing series should prove to be (He's written the second and been signed upfor three more after that). Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 28 February 2011
Small but perfectly formed, this little gem of a book is the debut of Brian McGilloway, an author I am sure is set for great success. The Borderlands are the area between Northern Ireland and Eire. As the book opens, the body of a teenage girl has been found in this modern no-man's land, and two police detectives from either side of the border must decide who is to take the case.
Because the girl turns out to live in Lifford, Inspector Ben Devlin of the Garda is the winner of this grim award, with his opposite number from the north, Jim Hendry, the loser. What follows over the next couple of hundred pages of this slight but telling book is a focused police procedural set during the next few days of Christmas and the New Year: an investigation hampered by weather, holidays and the need for co-ordination between the Northern and Southern administrations as witnesses, suspects and evidence turn up in the towns, hamlets and countryside on either side of the twisting border.
McGilloway weaves together a complex set of characters and motives, his canvas expanding as another victim is found, as drugs seem to be involved, as Devlin's own superior and colleagues come under suspicion, and as his own slightly tense domestic life is destabilised by an aggressive neighbour and by an old flame. Although Devlin strays from the straight and narrow both in running the investigation and in his marriage, he is essentially a good man whose innate honesty and doggedness take him further and further into an increasingly tangled web.
As with many of the best crime-fiction novels, the strengths of this book lie both in its convincing portrayal of place, and in the shadows of the past, into which Devlin and his junior partner Caroline Williams, have to travel in order to make connections, and hence sense, of the present. My only complaint is that a map would have helped the reader to understand the geography of the investigation, the sensitive areas in which Devlin has to clear certain aspects with Hendry, the rather taunting northern detective, and the strangely surreal area in which the events play out.
Nevertheless, the author barely puts a foot wrong in this confident book. Major and minor characters are portrayed with an efficient ease that makes them real people; their personal difficulties as well as their significance to the plot combine to make a compelling whole.
The final couple of chapters perhaps stray from the solid believability of the rest of the book. Although by the last quarter of the book it is relatively easy to work out who is responsible for the deaths and why, the author keeps the reader guessing as to the identity of the "who" right to the end. Once this is revealed, it is evident that there are one or two holes in the plot, but really, that doesn't matter in the overall scheme of this excellent and well-written book.
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on 7 April 2013
Brian McGilloway. Having read two of this authors books I cannot wait to start the next one. His books are so full of intrigue and detail. I find D I Devlin a fascinating character and am looking forward to reading Borderlands (Inspector Devlin mystery 2 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 3 January 2009
Waiting for new releases from the regular crime writers that I read, I came across "Borderlands" and bought it on the strength of the reviews.

I was not disappointed and will be reading the 2nd in the series before the 3rd is released in April!

The plot moves along at a strong pace, with enough clues being teased out to ensure interest is maintained with surprises towards the end. I agree that at the end of the novel a number of twists and turns come tumbling out too quickly that damages the former credibility. However the realisic sense of police work and detection throughout the novel easily lets you forgive this.

Benedict Devlin is a great character - essentially a moral and good man - he has human failings where his own emotions and temptations side track him. McGilloway put across an honesty to Devlin's character which brings his character alive.

I did have to check the setting on a map but that is due to my own lack of geographical knowledge and not the fault of the author. The setting is strongly portrayed and convincing. At times the writing is powerful and poetic, ie. "the sky is bruised purple and yellow in the dying sun" as a young girl is found dead with bruising on her chest.

I'm glad that I have found this author.
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on 14 February 2015
I was very disappointed with this book. The plot was excellent and fast paced, but there were so many twists and turns it became confusing, possibly because many of the characters were insufficiently described and it was hard to get a picture of them. Physical characteristics are not enough. I found it hard to empathize with the main character. Devlin was written in the first person, presumably to allow access to his thinking process. A first person viewpoint should give a clear understanding of the character's motives and behaviour as the story unfolds. However in this case the viewpoint was something of a stumbling block. Other characters could only report back, so information came at second hand without any exciting details. Devlin did not live up to expectations although some effort was made to make him human, with human foibles, but somehow it seemed forced, a sort of add in. He did not seem intelligent enough for the role. He came across as inefficient, possibly corrupt and with a taste for violence. Not great qualities, I could not like him, or care what happened to him.
The beginning was excellent, but the rest of the book, despite its complexity, became dull and exasperating. There appeared to be a certain lack of logic and clear thinking throughout. For example why did he decide to shoot Frank (his dog) - surely a humane person would have taken him to a rescue centre to be homed in a city if he was a sheep killer. The effect on his daughter, who he claimed to love, would have been devastating. This was one inconsistency too many. He seemed unreal as did the work of the Guarda. Police procedurals should have some procedure surely. This was shambolic. Sudden bursts of violence appeared at regular intervals (for no particular reason) as though the writer was working to a pattern. The summary at the end was presumably to clear up the outstanding points in the plot, which in itself could have been good had there been more emphasis on character and clarity in the writing. I shall not read this author again.
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VINE VOICEon 28 August 2010
This is the first Inspector Devlin book, which the author Brian McGilloway is going to make into a series of books. Therefore you could be forgiven in thinking that all this book will do is set the scene and introduce us to the characters. It does all that and more - it gives us a storyline so gripping that the book can be finished in one sitting easily.

Inspector Benedict `Ben' Devlin works in the south but very near the border with the north. Where am I talking about, well Ireland. Any prior knowledge the reader brings to this book, about the troubles between north and south and all the politics which accompany it, are not wasted, it just gives the book a bit more of a grounding.

Devlin whilst trying to juggle family life in the few days before Christmas is trying to piece together the murder of local girl, Angela Cashell. Her body found on the border leaves little clues, not even clothes only an old ring and a photograph. Her father is known to the police and many theories revolve about how he is implicated. When another youngster is murdered, leaving another clue of a photograph - whoever is in the photograph must know something.

But the photograph is twenty five years old and when Devlin and his colleagues discover who it is in the photograph then begin to unearth connections back to one of their own colleagues, but with new faces at the Garda station in recent months, which one of them is it.

McGilloway has created suspense and mystery, and uses the weather to set the scene for many confrontations, and place the deaths and the investigation in a rather dark place, while the snow and the whiteness of it is the contrast. Battling the weather at every turn, Devlin is being warned off by someone and their exacting revenge but when it starts to affect his young family he needs to solve these murders and the mystery of the photograph very quickly.

An excellent debut novel, and for someone who likes crime, detectives and an interesting setting then you will not go far wrong with this book, and the subsequent ones. Very much current, and only thing I would watch out for is the amount of characters, it makes it one of those books where you need to concentrate to ensure you know who is who and what side of the border they work on. Other than that - excellent.
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on 3 September 2012
The last two books read before this were absolute dogs (Bourne Protocol and Web of Deceit) so it was refreshing to come across a well written, intelligent book that engrossed me fully.

The characters are finely put together with a who-done-it type plot that leaves you guessing to the last page. The only minor flaw would be too much happens in too short a period, at the end of the book, with an unnecessary over-egged twist. What had been discerned to the reader through Dev's eyes was sufficient and sometimes less is more. Also at the end there were a couple of loose ends, but nonetheless in the scheme of things all is forgiven and minor enough.

Apart from the main murder mystery being interesting and engaging the underlying sub-stories added more depth and ran tightly to the main story line. These being, Dev's dog chasing sheep and the dichotomy of how he should handle things was pure genius and the exploration of the human aspect of Dev and his rollercoaster personal life with troubles added layers of believability that hooked you totally in. Couple these to the descriptive use of language that perfectly summed up the rugged North West of Ireland in an evocative manner clearly set this book apart from many in its genre.

Overall highly recommended for anyone interested in crime fiction and looking forward to more.

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on 27 March 2013
Good introduction to irish borderland life and the irish political problems faced in days gone by! I just loved to read the Inspector Devlin mystery series. He is such a jerk sometimes and soo into his job, you want to hit him not standign up for his family. on the other hand he is a good policeman doing a great job were all the other dumbheads around him don't see the wood for the trees. the last reminds me soo much of my real life in Oxford on my day to day experience!!!! :)
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on 5 September 2012
Absolutely excellent, with that extra savour of serendipity! I knew nothing about this novel and picked it up entirely by chance.
Set in the grey area along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, this novel starts with the seemingly inexplicable murder of Angela Cashell, eldest daughter of a local low-life. As the police of both jurisdictions work together to try to unravel the mystery another youngster is murdered, again without apparent motive.
Inspector Benedict Devlin, of the Garda, leads the investigation, coming up against a local traveller community as well as the shadows cast by "The Troubles" by which this area had been so dreadfully disfigured.
The novel is written with a great lucidity, and while there are numerous twists and complications, the plot is always utterly plausible.
Definitely a great find!
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on 12 November 2015
This is the first book I've read in this series. I like it a lot and will certainly work through the rest. It is refreshing to read a police story set in Ireland. There are a lot of Scottish crime authors, Stuart McBride and Ian Rankin to name but a couple. But this series opens up interesting variations on the legal side of things over there.
The story moves along at a sensible rate, like the Rebus stories. It's not a racing, wham, bam style of writing but still held my interest up to the end - although I found the final wrapping up all a bit confusing.
Big plus point for me: It is very well written, like the Susan Hill stories are well written too. Ok, if B. McG teaches English, this would explain it. There is bad language, but it is used in the conversational bits; the writing is not overlaid with it. Some of the characters would quite obviously use bad language as an every day way of talking...this is alright.
A good tale with a plausible main character, and nicely, elegantly written.
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