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on 29 April 2010
I bought this having read other articles by Niamh, and I wasnt disappointed! Set in Dublin, the book follows a series of murders that all take place within a few days and in a certain area, enter DI Jo Birmingham who is a seperated mum of two boys, she sets out to solve the murders, and soon establishes a link, its not plain sailing though, throw in an ex husband who puts obstacles in her path at every turn, he also happens to be Jo's Boss!!, an accusation of theft, a family with a child who has become a selective mute after a harrowing experience and watch them all knit together to tell such a fantastic story... I bought this book and read it over two nights, brilliantly written and had me dying just to turn another page...
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on 27 February 2011
We've all heard the old adage that we `shouldn't judge a book by its cover' and in the case of If I Never See You Again by Irish writer Niamh O'Connor, this couldn't be more true.
The cover doesn't do justice to the intelligence and plotting of the novel. It looks amateurish and doesn't reflect the book's content at all. If it wasn't for me getting the book for free as part of the Transworld Crime Caper project, I'd never have picked it up.
And that would have been a real shame.
Jo Birmingham is a recently promoted detective in Dublin, a single mother - her husband (and boss) recently left her for his secretary - she has to fight hard to be taken seriously in her male-dominated workplace. I really liked this character. I empathised with her situation and was rooting for her throughout the novel.
I found the plot a little confusing. Granted, I read this book while going through a fibro flare-up and may not have been as on the button as I'd like to be, but I never quite understood how Jo made the connection between the manner of the victims' death and the religious element of the story. I felt this could have been exploited more. I also thought that when he was identified, the religious connection to the killer was a little tenuous. Personally, I'd have liked the book to be a little darker in tone - the religious nutter theme lent itself to this and it would have made the story a bit stronger.
My last niggle with the book is the title. I have no idea what the relevance of If I Never See You Again has to the story. Ms. O'Connor might as well have called it `Alan'. Or perhaps I'm just being dense about it.
The big question is would I read another of Niamh O'Connor's books? I have to say, yes. As I said before, I cared about what happened to Jo Birmingham and would gladly spend a few more hours in her company. All in all, a recommended read to crime fiction fans.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 February 2011
Well, I have to be honest and say I was really surprised. This book was recommended to me via Facebook from somebody who was currently reading this book. I fancied somebody new and realised that it has only taken me a few days to finish this and throughly enjoyed it.

I loved the setting in Ireland as it seems lately a lot of crime books I have been reading have been set in London. Niamh's writing is pretty good too. It's an easy to read style, nothing too taxing and complicated but enough to draw interest (nothing worse that reading a book and feeling like you are taking a course in forensic pyschology!). Jo Birmingham is a good lead character and her situation is one that is not uncommon, in books or in the real world. A typical working mother that has to try and balance work and home. What I really liked about Jo was that she wasn't made as perfect as other characters I have read in the past. Typical lead women do NOT have to be perfect and sometimes (like in the case of this book) it's nice to see them make mistakes and doubt themselves.

I also loved the other characters that make appearances throughout the story, namely her ex-husband Dan and her colleagues John Foxe (known and Foxy in the book. What a great nickname!) and Gavin Sexton. The story itself is built up in layers which made it more interesting to read, we weren't thrown out of the frying pan and in to the fat. The story is built up as we learn more about each person and the role they play following the discovery of the first body.

From the perspective of the crimes themselves, this was the area I felt it lacked a little something. Other crime writers are far more descriptive with murder scenes and this book lacked that certain something that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when reading about a murder!

The killer itself was not somebody I guessed which pleased me a lot (nothing worse than guessing half way through and being right) and although the ending was okay it wasn't the greatest. It felt a little rushed towards the end and amybe a little 'unfinished'.

I wouldn't say that the book was perfect and at the moment there is so much competition in this genre that it is very hard to stand out from the crowd. Having said that this book is certainly a great read and is a great catalyst for a series featuring Jo Birmingham. Crime itself is relentless wherever you are in the world and her personal life could go either way. Having loved the characters and enjoyed the writing I am looking forward to her second book featuring Jo.

I think overall for a debut novel this is a great book and I would recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 29 March 2011
Set in recession hit Dublin, this first novel in a planned new series introduces Detective Inspector Jo Birmingham. She is having a bit of a tough time. Her marriage has broken up, and it doesn't help that her ex is her boss and is living with his secretary. Her teenage son Rory is worrying her, and she has a young baby too. She is desperate for a chance to prove herself at work. When a murder investigation comes up she asks to lead on it.

At the start of the story I was a bit taken aback by the number of personal problems experienced by the characters -Jo's colleague Gavin Sexton's wife committed suicide 18 months ago, and there's a local crime reporter whose daughter has been abducted and abused, and is still too traumatised by the experience to speak about it. It all seemed rather too much for one novel. The crime plot also seemed a bit sensational for my tastes - a serial killer with an interest in Biblical symbolism.

However, I quickly found myself drawn into the story and anxious to read on to find out what would happen next. Jo is a great character for a crime series, spiky and ambitious, all too aware of the sexism and other prejudices which have affected her career, sometimes too impulsive and reckless. Single mother detectives are rare in crime fiction, and I enjoyed the portrait of her domestic life as a contrast to work (though I wasn't quite sure why she was giving a one year old formula milk or about the way she was preparing it!) She has a passion for finding out the truth and compassion for the families of victims which is not shared by some of her colleagues, who think that the victims are just more dead hookers.

I also enjoyed the interactions between Jo and other characters in the novel - there is ex-husband Dan who hints that he regrets the affair with his secretary and the break up (but if so, why has he moved in with Jeannie?). Then there's her moody teenage son Rory, colleagues Sexton and the boorish, chauvinistic and contemptuous Mac.
With memorable characters and a page turning story, I'm looking forward to the next in the series (due out in May
this year).

Thank you to Transworld for sending me this book to review as part of their Great Crime Caper challenge.
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The only thing which prevents me from giving this five stars is that I don't actually like reading about religious nut serial killers. Ireland hasn't had any that we're aware of and it seems to be the fashion now for every crime author to write a serial killer book.
Focus on the Garda Detective instead then. Jo Birmingham is a single mother who works out of the busiest station in Ireland, Store Street in Dublin 1. Unfortunately this had the added effect of shrinking the location of the crimes to a tiny area of the capital in order to keep them within the one officer's bailiwick - I can't believe a serial killer would be that thoughtful to his investigators. The city is well peppered with stations and spreading his crimes around a bit would have added to the confusion.

That apart, we have a small girl who has blanked out her trauma and turned mute; an ex-husband who is Jo's boss (would the guards let that happen?); a murdered prostitute who had overcome leukaemia only to fall prey to heroin; a pesky reporter and several cranky or co-operative detectives. A good cast list is half the story.

Jo is constantly trying to prove herself - maybe a little too much. She makes stupid calls to civil servants and pre-empts announcements to the media in an attempt to get better representation for victims of crime. Isn't this timewasting and a misuse of official resources? Would Jo's cause not be better served by doing the job she is paid to do? I thought that here the author might be blurring the line between her journalism career and that of the guard, who would surely be blowing any chance of promotion with her hassling of senior civil servants.

It's an involving and fast-paced tale and anyone who is keen on reading about serial killers will enjoy it more than I did. I'll be looking out for Niamh O'Connor's next.
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on 26 July 2011
This is a complex mystery with an interesting lead character. It's relatively unusual to come across a female lead detective with children, although of course a complex and often unhappy love life is de rigueur with crime-novel-cops. I warmed to Jo Birmingham and her struggles to be taken seriously amongst the boys in blue, and was drawn into the story through her character. She has an ongoing crusade - to get Separate Legal Representation for rape victims - which is mentioned throughout the book and picked up in an author's note at the end. This clearly is an issue which the author (a crime journalist) has strong feelings about, but she did not allow it to take over the plot, which a lesser writer could easily have done.

The setting of Dublin is strongly present and there probably were references that I missed which would delight those familiar with the city, but I wasn't left with a 'one step behind' feeling. The supporting characters were also well-drawn and inherently interesting, while the tense relationships between Jo, her teenage son and her ex-husband are effectively portrayed.

The plot itself (in terms of the crimes committed) was complicated and encouraged me to keep reading, but there were times I was surprised at the leaps made and I think there were aspects that were never completely explained - or maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. This was not sufficient to stop me reading (I wanted to know where it was going next!) and would absolutely not inhibit me from reading another Jo Birmingham novel in the future.

I received this book free for review as part of Transworld's Great Crime Caper.
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on 16 June 2014
This is a promising start to a series of Jo Bermingham books - but with some room for improvement.

I liked the main character's personality and found her home life to be well done and realistic, though reporting to her estranged husband was unlikely and the back story of her father's death was unnecessary. The plot was well developed and kept me interested, though as always in these type books the lead makes wild deductions that always work out. The interaction of her colleagues, superiors and the actions of the media were also well drawn.

What let it down a bit was the resolution of the mystery with no convincing reason given as to why the culprit decided to kill and the motivation behind the biblical symbolism. Also, the actual final denouement was more James Bond than Irish Gardai. There was also a bit too much of the put-upon female struggling against all the odds in a male environment and some of her actions were very unlikely - calling unsanctioned press briefings and phoning the Minister.

However, overall I enjoyed it and I will read more of the series.
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on 1 August 2011
I am sorry to say that this is not in a Martina Cole league. I have read a few pages, it did not hold my attention and it is one of those books that I will pick up again if I ever run out of something to read.....which is unlikely!
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If you're looking for a crime story that's a little different with a new setting, then you really can't do much better than this offering by Niamh. It's fresh, it has great characterisation and with traits within Jo Birmingham that many a reader will recognise, she has something that can be latched onto so that the reader has an almost instant connection.

Add to this mix a plot that takes the reader around the streets of Dublin as the character struggles to face events from the past alongside a string of murders that she needs to solve and the reader has a title that will stay with them. It's definitely different to the many crime stories out there and for that reason is well worth a punt. You won't regret it.
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on 16 July 2011
Thoroughly enjoyed this book - the characters are believable and you want to know what's going to happen to them. Lots of twists and turns in the plot which keeps the reader guessing and keeps you turning those pages. Highly recommended read.
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