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3.7 out of 5 stars
Too Close For Comfort (Jo Birmingham 3)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2012
I want to start by saying I liked Jo Birmingham... She is a good fictional character and I like her very human flaws and the background story. However, I can only give this book a maximum of two stars because the 'story' itself was a jumbled mess which degenerated into nonsense and at times was I think bordering on offensive. Using the Leveson inquiry and the phone hacking scandal was perhaps a good starting point - writers often use real life events to stir the imagination and I don't have a problem with this. However it all felt like Niamh O'Connor was so keen to be the first past the post that she didn't take the time to properly structure/layer the events so the story is really poor. In addition to this the use of the murder of Milly Dowler with Journalists 'posing' as sympathetic in letters to Levi Bellfield made my stomach turn... too much and too damn soon. I am not lily livered (my reading reviews will I am sure attest to that)but this went too far for me; perhaps because it wasn't done well so looked opportunistic. However, Jo Birminham was good so maybe this is not a true representation of O'Connors skill - perhaps I will go back and read the earlier stuff.
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on 17 July 2014
This is the third in the Jo Bermingham series and the weakest by a mile because of ridiculous far-fetched plotlines. It's as if the author stopped taking the book seriously and started throwing every bit of nonsense in - all that's missing is an alien ship landing! It's a pity as in the earlier books she had created an engaging lead character that we believed and cared about. The author can write and managed previously to create suspense whilst intertwining the lives of Jo and her team - of which, alas, there was very little this time. The plots were always slightly exaggerated but this one took the biscuit.

Some of those plot lines
Various residents of an estate were being blackmailed and so they all stand up in front of one another making a full confession about what they were being blackmailed about - "but don't say anything to anyone as we could all go to jail" - hello!
The actions of Jo's husband twenty years ago - not credible.
A newspaper in Ireland (population 4 million) offering a reward of 500,000! What newspaper on earth could offer a reward like that?
The beneficiary of that reward (no spoilers) is totally unbelievable - and no questions raised by the hard-nosed editor of the paper!
The avenging angel with murderous intent, total and utter nonsense. This is when the book "jumped the shark" .

The book ended with two cliff-hangers so I could be tempted to read the next in the series - but please let it have a more realistic plot.
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The author gets one added star from me right away for writing about Ireland; having a female lead in a position of responsibility; and addressing serious modern issues like house repossession, crooked solicitors and special needs children.

Here's what I liked about the book:
As I saw in earlier books about this main character, Jo Bermingham, she is bull-headed, disorganised in her home life with kids, and keen to keep working on a case. Therefore Jo is true to herself by continuing those character traits as she investigates a case of a vanished woman from south Dublin. The woman's body is found in a mountainous area where women have previously disappeared. The sense of loss felt by the family of one of these women is well portrayed.
The recession has caused chaos in family lives, especially middle-class people.
As a newspaper editor herself, the author incorporates many references to the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World in the UK.
The portrayal of a young lad on the autism spectrum.

Here's what I didn't like:
I would have liked at least one decent journalist to be included, for balance.
I lost count of how many serial killers there were running around south Dublin.
The cast seemed numerous and homogenous so it was easy, reading this over a few nights, to lose track and say, which was Amanda or Ellen or Kate again? Which was Tom and which was Tim? Next time maybe a nice Indian or Polish couple has moved in next door, please.
I can accept many impossible things before breakfast, but not a seriously obese woman overpowering two fit men.
Nor a senior policeman letting anyone fake his way into his house and leaving him there without even phoning the firm the man says he came from to check.
Sneaky people paying everyone with a job (including police) for information covered by the Data Protection Act and getting it back on the instant.

The author has clearly put a lot of work into developing her complex plot twists and her characters, the main persons leaving us with issues unresolved. Followers of this series should enjoy the read but for newcomers it may not be the best place to start.
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This is the third DI Jo Birmingham novel by Niamh O'Connor and it is as gritty as the last two and very cleverly weaves into it events clearly inspired by real crime stories, in this case the shocking tactics that one now defunk Sunday tabloid used to get stories.

Amanda Wells, solicitor has been found dead, her body dumped in the mountains in Dublin. Is the person or the place significant - it has echoes of a past case where women have disappeared in the past. One of these women was Ellen, her body never found. But her sister, Liz remembers Ellen to this day and so does Liz's husband Derek, the man who was implicated in her disappearance some years earlier. But what is the connection of Ellen and Amanda, is it all linked to Derek?

But when something happens in a close community, normally the neighbours rally round. But something does not sit right for Jo Birmingham with this case and the neighbours behave rather strangely. Secrets, lies and past histories come tumbling out. With the past case having a connection to Birmingham, via her husband who was an investigating officer it all seems a bit too close for comfort.

What unfolds over the following pages as the book reaches its climax, is sometimes spot on and at other times, rather woolly and confusing. The inserted chapters in reference to the way the journalist was working to get a story was rather eye opening but at times I could not make the connections to the main plot line - who had killed Amanda Wells and how was it related to Ellen's disappearance. The character of Jo Birmingham is still strong and she is still trying to find that balance of being a mother, a wife and soon to be Chief Superintendent but Jo is human she has flaws and Niamh O'Connor handles the interaction between Jo and her colleagues and her husband well. She shows that sometimes one area becomes affected by another in your life, and recognising that is perhaps half the battle. I am not sure whether there is scope for more Jo Birmingham novels, but if you like your crime fiction based in some fact that you can recognise and relate to then this is a good author to pick. A balance of plot, strong characters and their back story to keep you interested.
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on 5 August 2013
This is a truly dreadful book. It is a total mess and the story is senseless. Don't waste your time with ir
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Too Close for Comfort by Niamh O'Connor

Niamh O'Connor's new release Too Close for Comfort is the third in a series of books featuring DI Jo Birmingham. I have read the previous two books and enjoyed them and was looking forward to this one. Jo Birmingham is a brilliant character and she does stand out in my mind amongst other female leads in books. I think the reason for this is that she is so normal. She makes some serious mistakes, constantly has to juggle her work and personal life (not always succeeding) and is an ordinary woman doing an extraordinary job. Straight away Niamh O'Connor brings the reader into Jo's world without the need to read the first two books.

Her writing style is easy to follow and it doesn't take long to get into the story. A woman has been found in an area in the Dublin Mountains. In the past women have disappeared and the area is now known as part of the `vanishing triangle' case. Derek Carpenter lives in Nun's cross, the same area as the latest victim and was the prime suspect in the Vanishing Triangle case. In the very beginning the story gripped me and we saw flashes of somebody who is involved in the press. This will eventually link to the killer later down the line. I think one of the main problems I had with this book was the references to hacking. The crime was interesting but there were numerous links to press hacking; similar to the scandal the General Public have seen with Newspapers in recent months. Niamh O'Connor couldn't have timed it better with the release of this book but I am just tired of hearing about the Leveson enquiry on the news lately, so maybe a similar thread in the book was too much for me?!? Maybe that was why this particular part of the book annoyed me so much.

Apart from that one minor irritant, it seems that Niamh O'Connor is doing a slow burn with this character and her novels as each of her books is just that little bit better than the last. This story had me questioning everybody at every opportunity. There were plenty of plot twists and at one point there was so much going on I went back to make sure I hadn't missed anything! The characters were strong and believable and one element I like is the constant battle for Jo to make her marriage work with Dan (who also used to be her boss). One other thing that stuck out for me is the lead to the endings of her books. In a strange sort of way they are always brilliant because they have the desired effect of the reader just having to get the next book. I cannot stand loose ends and with numerous characters making reappearances there are more questions than answer with some of them.

At the moment Niamh O'Connor is maybe not as widely known as she should be. I think her books are hugely under-rated, and although I am yet to be blown away with one of her books, I have a sneaking suspicion one of her future books is going to be the one! Maybe not to everybody's taste but a complex book that will keep you reading. I am now waiting with baited breath for the next instalment as this one was left on a bit of a cliff hanger!
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on 12 July 2015
Good story, well plotted, recommended.
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on 25 November 2014
happy with purchase- would recommend
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on 27 November 2014
Got series for my mum in law
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2013
I have bought this book for my partner and she says it was a very good read she really enjoyed it
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