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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If I Never See You Again. Niamh O'Connor. Transworld Ireland (2010)


A big angry heart and a very engaging lead character and strong momentum pretty much overcome an over reliance on genre stereotypes in plotting and casting. Newly promoted Detective Inspector Jo Birmingham finds a mutilated body while completing a training exercise. After being put in charge of the investigation she realises that it has links with some other brutal murders that also involved mutilations. Ryan Freeman, a crime reporter, is also pursuing a investigation concerning his daughter's abduction and eventual return. She had been kidnapped by a leading Dublin gangster who was one of the murder victims that Jo Birmingham had identified as part of a pattern. The two lines of inquiry are nicely set up before being knotted together in a brutal and effective fashion leading to a violent climax.
The biggest weakness in this story are that other than Jo Birmingham and Ryan Freeman the cast are one dimensional cut outs designed to push the plot forward as required. Dan Mason, Jo Birmingham's ex husband and current boss can never escape his purpose as a plot device to have any hope of independent life. The surrounding cast are given a little more air but never enough to free them. The plot is slightly more boilerplate serial killer than not, it does has some force, it does not quite manage the very difficult task of breathing fresh life into an much used idea.
What lifts up Jo and Ryan is also what lifts the entire book, there is a genuinely angry heart pulsing within this book, Jo is a really angry character, the plight of victims caught up in the coils of the Irish justice system drives her. This anger propels her into life as a character, she is involved a fight with the Dept of Justice that does not appear to be heavy handed editorialising by the author. Niamh O'Connor has created a genuine voice in Jo Birmingham and her struggle and cause seem natural and unforced. For Ryan the grief for his daughter is crisp and sharp, it gives him depth and weight. Rising above its limitations this is an engaging read.

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