This book is the third in the Lucy Black series of which I read and enjoyed the first, Little Girl Lost. In fact I remember this one so well I was surprised to see that I actually read it early in 2011, so the fact I recall it so vividly is a mark of a good book indeed! I do seem to be reading an awful lot of Irish fiction this year but I have to say this is up there with the best of them!
In Preserve the Dead DS Lucy Black is living on her own in her father’s house while he is at the Gransha Hospital suffering with Alzheimer’s, she is in a relationship with Robbie but following an accident in the last book, which Lucy blames herself for, she is unsure whether this relationship is based on love or guilt.
When Lucy is called to pull a dead body out of the water it doesn’t take a pathologist to tell her that this body has already been embalmed, but who would organise a funeral and then dump the body? And so starts a series of interconnecting mysteries that kept me totally entertained throughout this book.
Although Lucy’s personal life features in Preserve the Dead there isn’t so much detail that it overshadows the crimes being investigated. As is often the case in a police procedural there are some tensions within the team, but these details are inserted with the lightest of touches, which makes for a much better reading experience than those writers who lay these issues on with a trowel, after all Brian McGilloway has far meatier subjects to delight us with including exploitation of the poor and domestic abuse – we really don’t need endless petty squabbles to pad this book out with! Although there is a relatively high body count, the murders aren’t depicted in a gruesome manner, so that the impression given is that this story is much more about the who and why than violence dressed up as entertainment.
Set in Derry, Ireland the author gives the reader enough details of the culture of the area, although this story or its detection isn’t dependent on this particular setting, that we get a feeling of the kind of community that our characters inhabit. And what a mixed bunch the characters are, ranging in age from childhood to old-age, from those who are flawed but do their best to help others to those that are downright rotten and plenty that fall somewhere in the middle. I find this eclectic mix of characters not only makes for a better reading experience, it is far easier to follow when the characters are distinct, but also gives a sense of authenticity to the storyline.
If all this talk of characters and style of writing leaves you wondering, yes the plot is fantastic, the mysteries are ingeniously tied together and solved in the main by good old-fashioned police work which is intensely satisfying.
I highly recommend this book and Brian McGilloway is definitely an Irish author that I will be reading more of especially if it features the strong but sensitive Lucy Black.
I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown Book Group for allowing me to read a copy of this book which was published on 6 August 2015.