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A Famished Heart: The Sunday Times Crime Club Star Pick (An Inspector Vincent Swan Mystery) Paperback – 27 Feb 2020
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Fabulous Dublin-based crime. Dark, atmospheric, well-written. Very much in the vein of Tana French. (Jo Spain, bestselling author of The Confession)
An intriguing, compelling and highly entertaining story. Formidably impressive writing! (Liz Nugent, award-winning author of Unravelling Oliver)
A fabulous closed room mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. This is a gorgeously poetic deep-dive into the pieties and myth-making of Dublin in the early eighties. (Denise Mina, acclaimed author of Conviction)
A terrific new gem of Irish noir, written with a light touch but a firm command of character, mannerisms and speech (Sunday Times)
Sombre, psychologically nuanced and compassionate... as gripping as it is disturbing (Irish Times)
Thrilling... will keep you guessing until the very end (My Weekly)
This creeps up on you until you're hooked (Heat)
An intriguing and haunting story that will appeal to lovers of the Irish police procedural (NB Magazine)
Infused with depth, darkness and acute psychological drama. Her polished prose comes studded with original imagery and her dialogue crackles. We are propelled towards an explosive denouement which, artfully, doubles as a kind of moral reckoning (Herald)
The first in a powerful new crime trilogy set in 1980s Dublin, exploring the power of the Catholic Church and the powerlessness of unmarried women
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The sense of time and place in this novel plays a central part in the success of this book. White creates an atmosphere that conveys the time so well, evoking not just the time and place but also a certain kind of small minded thinking that pervades some of the characters in this book and makes it resonate.
Francesca Macnamara is a little down on her luck. An actress who came to New York to strike it lucky after making a bit of a name for herself in her home city of Dublin, she is now on the edge of grifting to get through the week.
Father Timoney is discovering that he should have asked a lot more questions before he decided to come to Dublin to do good works. He’s not living where he thought he would be; his housekeeper isn’t up to the job and the church he looks after is an ugly forbidding place.
Then, one day, he discovers the dead bodies of Berenice and Rosaleen Macnamara. It is a gruesome find for the elderly sisters have quite clearly starved to death in their own home.
DI Vincent Swan, himself under a bit of a cloud after accusations of brutality from a prisoner in the Garda’s custody, begins an investigation. Forensics can tell how these women died, but not whether there was anything suspicious or criminal about their deaths. Vincent is not at all convinced that these were self-contained though horrible suicides. He’s sure there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Francesca returns to Dublin to bury her sisters and to find out whether there’s an inheritance. There she offers a place to stay to her niece, a young woman named Madeleine Moone, only to find that Madeleine disappears on her.
Nicola White’s book is an investigation of crime, but it is much more a study of the principal characters, their lives and relationships and how they react to each other in a time of serious stress. White’s novel puts these characters under the microscope and watches how they interact.
In terms of investigative technique, the reader will find sufficient to occupy their time, but in terms of developing and understanding characters; of getting to the heart of motivations and defining inner struggles, this is a finely written book that achieves a great deal.
These are intense and riveting characters, beautifully drawn and finely nuanced by White. The deaths provide a dark theological backdrop in which to observe and understand not only the characters but the way in which the church works.
As Swan doggedly pursues his case he comes across some extraordinary characters, helped by a bright but impressionable new D.C. Gina Considine.
Verdict: This is not a fast paced police procedural, but a slower, more thoughtful and introspective book that looks at the power of the Church and the position of women across the social and economic divide. A fascinating study with a criminal heart that I really enjoyed getting immersed in.
While everything that is immediately presented seems like suicide our lead detective Vincent Swan cannot shake the feeling that there is something more at play. With restricted resources and a suspension looming over him, it would be easy to let this one slide, but he is not that kind of man. With the help of his partner Detective Gina Considine they try to unravel just what may have happened to these sisters.
The detectives have a great rapport and I thought Vincent Swan was quite a likeable character. He may have his faults, but he is certainly not as faulty as others in his company who seem to represent everything that was wrong about men in 1980's Ireland. We see less of his partner throughout the book, but the reasons for this are quite clear throughout. She is certainly making a name for herself on the force and does a lot of the heavy lifting in the background while Swan is otherwise occupied.
I feel it is necessary to bring up one aspect of the book that threw me a bit and that is that I felt like I was missing something throughout. There is a background story where Swan and some of his colleagues are being investigated for mistreatment of a prisoner. While more information about what happened is leaked throughout, I felt a little lost in these sections as to why it was all happening - but perhaps this was all part of the first book. So, while the overall story does work as a standalone, there are sections that hark back to book 1 that left me wondering what had happened (I guess I'll just have to go back ;-))
This is not as fast paced as other crime novels, but I am sure that is not supposed to be. It is a thoughtful book looking at the power of the church in the 1980's and Irish society as a whole at that time. It is a great story that I found incredibly intriguing. It was great to come back to the characters in the evening after work. If you are a fan of intricate crime drama, then this one is definitely for you.