The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan is a debut novel set in Galway, Ireland. I was sent a copy of this book for review by HarperCollins Australia and it sat in my to be read pile for a while. When I finally picked it up, I was instantly hooked by the writing and expert plotting. The Ruin very much reads like it should be book ten from a well-established author instead of a debut. I read mostly crime thrillers rather than police procedural novels, but I’ve read enough of this genre to know that this is a high quality example.
The Ruin has been compared to the bestselling The Dry (probably because Dervla and Jane Harper both live in Australia) but I think it’s very different from The Dry.
It’s set in Ireland for one thing (the author is Irish) which made it interesting. Apart from reading Marian Keyes novels, I don’t read many books set in Ireland. It goes into more detail about detective work, gathering evidence and police politics than The Dry did. Where I could easily see The Dry as an explosive movie, The Ruin would better suit a slow but suspenseful TV series format.
Galway 1993: Young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a scene he will never forget. Two silent, neglected children – fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack – are waiting for him at a crumbling country house. Upstairs, their mother lies dead.
Twenty years later, a body surfaces in the icy black waters of the River Corrib. At first it looks like an open-and-shut case, but then doubt is cast on the investigation’s findings – and the integrity of the police. Cormac is thrown back into the cold case that has haunted him his entire career – what links the two deaths, two decades apart? As he navigates his way through police politics and the ghosts of the past, Detective Reilly uncovers shocking secrets and finds himself questioning who among his colleagues he can trust.
What really did happen in that house where he first met Maude and Jack? The Ruin draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can’t – or won’t.
The Ruin is told from the perspectives of Detective Cormac Reilly and several other people associated with the cold case twenty years ago and the modern day body found in the river case. I found all the characters to be fully fleshed and expertly crafted by the author. I loved all the bitching and backstabbing that went on in the police department. Talk about office politics!
I can’t say I felt compelled to speed read through this book, but I definitely enjoyed it every time I picked it up. And the good news is that Cormac Reilly will be back in another book next year. This is definitely an author and series to start following if you like crime novels.
Verdict: If you are after a very well written, slow burner crime novel, The Ruin will satisfy your craving.