Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blood Tide – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction

I have followed this series set in Ballyterrin with Paula McGuire our brave yet personally conflicted protagonist and enjoyed each and every new outing but the change in setting to Bone Island complete with lighthouse definitely added something quite special to the already enjoyable mix.

Paula McGuire is living with her daughter Maggie in her parent’s old house in Ballyterrin while the man who so nearly became her husband in A Savage Hunger is in jail accused of murder, refusing to see her. Paula is still searching for the truth about what happened to her mother many years ago during ‘The Troubles.’ What makes this series quite so believable is this backdrop of times both past and present to the forensic psychologist’s life.

A call comes through to Paula as her role as a missing person specialist; a couple have gone missing from Bone Island. The lighthouse where they live is locked from the inside but there is no sign of Matt Andrew, a keen ecologist or his partner, the local doctor Fiona Watts. With a violent storm raging and some seriously closed lipped locals the sense of danger is never far away in this atmospheric and creepy novel. The weather almost acts as a character in its own right, hindering the search for the missing, adding danger to the trip to the island and of course preventing anyone who might want or need to, from leaving for safety.

Paula is conflicted, she wants to see the island to remind herself of the last holiday she spent with her mother Margaret and father P.J. now retired but formerly a Roman Catholic RUC Officer. On the other hand she has left her daughter in the capable hands of her best friend with her father and his second wife Kathleen.

Paula is a professional and she does her best to get beyond the silence and the half-truths that she is being fed. What she needs to discover is whether this treatment is the same for all outsiders or is it reserved for their visit?

There are a number of strands to the storyline in this the most tense and action packed of the entire series. As well as the obvious link of missing people, both past and present, we have a strand to do with the environment as well as the hostility of the small community to outsiders, but throughout it all Paula’s complicated personal life is given equal dominance. A troubled sleuth is hardly a rarity in crime fiction but Paula has no obvious vices although perhaps the complications could have been kept at arm’s length if she hadn’t decided to return to Ballyterrin and even the most generous reader has to admit that she could do with being a little bit sensible over her choice of relationships.

We might be spending our time on a windswept island full of strangeness, secrets and suspicion but back home the private investigator is continue his enquiries into Margaret’s disappearance along with looking for evidence to free Aiden. Will there be success on either front? Well… you’ll need to read Blood Tide for yourself to find out!

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for providing me with a copy of Blood Tide, this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages:  352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead
Savage Hunger

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Savage Hunger – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

I really enjoy this series which initially followed the cases Dr Paula McGuire investigated as part of the Missing Persons Unit on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland. The idea of the unit was to overcome the problems of cross-border information exchange but sadly that has fallen away and now Paula is working as a consultant with the police in Northern Ireland.

Claire McGowan cleverly links the missing person in this book, Alice Morgan, an anorexia sufferer with the hunger strikes carried out in 1981 by political prisoners. Alice went missing on the doorstep of a church in Ballyterrin along with a holy relic – the bones of a saint also connected to hunger. Paula is called in to help out in the investigation swiftly, after all her father is a government minister and so despite the student at a private university having a history of disappearing, a search is launched. It doesn’t take too long before the team realise that another young girl went missing from the same church, on the same day, back in 1981.

Having set the scene for investigation we hear more from Alice herself, from her time in a hospital where she was receiving treatment for her anorexia, this makes for disturbing reading. We also have some excerpts from WhatsApp from her circle of close friends, friends who the police are sure know more than they are letting on. I do like it when books set in the present use technology that is popular, it certainly lends some authenticity to the plot.

This is probably has the most interwoven plot of the whole series and that is before we get to Paula’s private life which is going through some turbulence with a wedding to prepare for, a missing mother and a child with an unknown father, her life is anything but simple. I do like getting to know the chief protagonist of crime series and Claire McGowan gets the mix between the investigation and this aspect absolutely right, never forgetting that as much as we want to know more about these issues, it is a crime novel so overall that must be the focus. That said it is great to meet up with some old favourites and to see how life is treating them.

Overall this book was quite sad, the issues covered were executed extremely so well that they made me feel for the characters involved. With life switching between several different institutions; prison, hospital, university and the police it was hard not to compare how easy it is to manipulate those that are weaker, for whatever reason, by those who feel superior. With more than a handful of damaged souls I’m sure I won’t be the only reader that was misdirected very successfully by the author, more than once.

A satisfying and compelling read, if you haven’t read this series, I really do suggest that you start at the beginning and enjoy. If you have read the other books, I’m sure you don’t need me to urge you to get yourself a copy when it is published on 10 March 2016.

I’d like to thank the publisher Headline for allowing me to read a copy of this book prior to publication. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Silent Dead – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like to grow up in Ireland during the Troubles and so it is just as difficult to understand how life is different, and the same, since the Good Friday Agreement which led to the demilitarisation of Northern Ireland. Claire McGowan describes both in what appears to this outsider, in an incredibly thoughtful and realistic way.

As the book opens the Missing Persons Unit set-up to find people on both sides of the border between Northern and Southern Ireland are asked to assist with the discovery of a body, this is unusual, normally their subjects are presumed to be alive. Mickey Doyle has been found hanged, presumed murder and was one member of the Mayday Five, a terrorist group who are strongly suspected of planting a bomb that killed sixteen people, including babies and children. The group have been called in because the remaining four members are also missing but tensions in the town are running high, not least because the Mayday Five have recently been found not guilty and until their disappearance were free to live their lives.

This is a tough book to read because of the raw grief of the survivors of the bomb illustrated in the meetings they hold to discuss those who went about their business on the day the bomb exploded changing the lives of those around them forever. Paula McGowan does a fantastic job of creating the tension between the survivors and the police who are committed to tracking down the Mayday Five, and finding whoever was responsible for Mickey Doyle’s murder. This is definitely a story that captures the conflict caused by doing the right thing for those who carried out a horrendous atrocity.

Part of the tale, that of what really happened on the day of the bombing is relayed in the form of a book by an investigative journalist that Paula uses as a guide to what is known locally to have happened, a source that is useful to her having been in England at the time. This also helps the reader to understand why each question posed to those in the town has to be so mindful of past grudges and the subtleties of the importance of religion seventeen years on from the Good Friday Agreement.

This is the third in the series that features Paula McGuire, a forensic psychologist who works for a missing persons unit based on the border between Paula is a likeable and realistic character. She returned to her childhood home to look after her father but has remained despite his recent marriage to her childhood sweetheart’s mother. There is still a feeling that Paula hasn’t made this her home, and the house has its own ghosts as her mother disappeared one day when Paula was a teenager and to this day no-one, despite Paula using all her investigative skills, knows what happened to her. This book continues that search and brings Paula into contact with more people who might be able to tell her the truth. However with her pregnancy nearing the end, Paula has more pressing matters to resolve, such as who is the father of her child, and building the right kind of relationship with both potential fathers. Oh yes, this book is full of tension, both professional and personal aided by seemingly impossible problems to solve and one where doing the right thing could cause harm to those who arguably hold the moral high ground.

I’ve read and enjoyed both the The Lost and The Dead Ground but really felt that the writing had moved up a notch which was incredibly readable despite the complicated storyline coupled with what is a highly complex background. I’m sure this would work well as a standalone novel but I do think there is lots to be gained from the previous two books in terms of the relationships that have formed and developed along the way.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the publishers Headline for letting me read this book in return for my honest opinion. The Silent Dead will be published on 19 November 2015.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Dead Ground – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction  4*'s
Crime Fiction

The Dead Ground takes up the story from where The Lost, which was the first in the Paula McGuire series, ended. Paula McGuire, forensic psychologist is still in Ballyterrin, Northern Ireland with her father an ex-policeman and the ghost of her missing mother haunting her.

Paula is a likable character, she has made mistakes, not least with her boss DI Guy Brooking at the MPRU and newspaper owner Aiden O’Hara, but for now she has work to do, someone has snatched a baby from the hospital and there is a race against time to find him. This book has the constant theme of pregnancy and babies running all the way through it which although compelling, can be more than a little disturbing at times. It is impossible not to imagine the televised appeal for the return of a new-born baby or to wonder at the local hatred from both Catholics and Protestants, for the English doctor who helps pregnant women to arrange abortions. This is very much a modern novel which includes postings on social media site as well as placards to cajole Dr Alison Bates and anyone who wants to use her services into stopping. Alongside this is the insistence of the head of Serious Crime, DCI Helen Corry for the area on consulting the local psychic to find the new-born.

There was plenty to keep me turning the pages throughout this book, not least the on-going mystery of Paula’s missing mother as she searches in vain for clues to her disappearance seventeen years previously. I like that Paula makes mistakes, she doesn’t have the answers and she appears to have curbed the more maverick tendencies which featured in the last investigation. The plot moves at a pace with plenty of twists and turns although I had figured most of the whodunit by the time of the reveal.

An excellent read and one that has confirmed that I will be looking out for the third in the Paula McGuire, but one that does come with a warning that the subject matter is extremely sensitive and I for one would not recommend that you read this book if you are pregnant or have recently had a baby!

Although I’m sure this could be read as a stand-alone read I do think you’ll get more from this book if you read The Lost before picking this one up.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers Headline in return for this honest opinion ahead of the publication date of today, 10 April 2014!

Previous books by Claire McGowan
The Fall
Paula McGuire Series
The Lost

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Lost – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction

Having enjoyed The Fall I was intrigued to see how Claire McGowan would move from a stand-alone novel to the building of a new series based around a forensic psychiatrist Paula Maguire; the answer is skilfully with aplomb

Paula returns to her childhood home in Northern Ireland in her professional capacity as an expert in missing persons when two teenage girls go missing in her small hometown of Ballyterrin. Joining the local police Paula’s expertise is needed although the team seem suspicious of her and her theories. The search quickly widens when it a possible link is made to another two girls who went missing from the same town some 25 years previously. Paula has her own demons to conquer, her own mother is still missing after disappearing years ago and Aiden her nemesis is now the editor of the local paper.

The strands of the story are skilfully spun weaving through theories and plenty dubious characters to find out what happened to the girls and why. Claire McGowan handles characterisation very well with believable yet flawed characters. The plot moves quickly to make this an enjoyable read, the only downside for me was the emphasis on the Irish problems which at times seemed to intrude on the story. I will certainly be interested the next book in this series.

I received this book from the Amazon Vine Programme

The FallThe Fall by Claire McGowan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlotte comes to on the floor of a toilet realising that she had lost everything, what had happened to cause her to reach rock bottom? Charlotte has been busy planning her very expensive wedding when her life is turned upside down. Keisha meanwhile is trying to persuade a Social Worker that she should have her daughter returned to her and her boyfriend Chris. One night Charlotte and Keisha’s lives collide.

This book is really fresh, it is a crime novel but from the viewpoint of those on the outside. Supporting characters have never been so important as the story is told from both Keisha’s and Charlotte’s viewpoints. Their characters develop and although they come from very different backgrounds, they both struggle to overcome their weaknesses. The relationship between them is intriguing, as is the relationship between Hegarty, the Policeman, and Charlotte. All the characters in this book are finely drawn, they are engaging, so much so I read this book full of concern for both Charlotte and Keisha rather than the police procedural mystery element.

Claire McGowan has written a book that drags you into the story from the first page and produced a great debut novel.

View all my reviews