Thursday 19 November 2015

The Silent Dead by Claire McGowan

review by Maryom

Five people, four men and a woman, have gone missing from the area around Ballyterrin, near the Northern Ireland/Eire border. All were members of a breakaway Republican group, all suspected, tried, but not convicted, of having planted a bomb which killed sixteen innocent by-standers. Perhaps they've decided to leave the area completely - though for all five of them to do so on the same day seems unlikely - but then bodies start to turn up..... and DI Guy Brooking and his missing persons unit realise they're looking at kidnapping and murder. Who could be behind this increasingly grisly series of deaths - another branch of the Republican movement, one that's now more interested in promoting the peace process and legitimate political careers? Loyalists looking for revenge? Or maybe someone with closer links to the bomb victims?

This third book of the Paula Maguire series sees her caught up in an unusually disturbing case, one which raises issues about punishment and retribution. Popular opinion considers the missing five as terrorists, holding them responsible for a dreadful crime, placing a bomb on a busy high street; should they be entitled to police protection? Wouldn't the world be safer without them?  As the fifth anniversary of the bombing approaches, with the unveiling of a memorial planned, DI Guy Brooking and his team are working against the clock to find out who is responsible for these disappearances.
 Despite being seven months pregnant, and absolutely everyone she knows advising her to take things easy, Paula is convinced that as a forensic psychologist she can play a helpful role in finding the kidnappers and, of course, it helps distract her from the problems of her private life - small things like having a baby in a few weeks time and not being able to name the father, and the ongoing search for her 'disappeared' mother. 
 Set against the backdrop of modern Northern Ireland, Claire McGowan tells a story that will hook you with its twists and turns, but leave you wondering about the deeper issues behind it. It portrays a town still trying to come to terms with its past during the years of the Troubles but trying to build a lasting peace,despite having once been on opposing sides. This is seen through Paula's eyes, with her mother never having been officially accounted for, and through the long terms effects on the bomb victims' families, for whom nothing will ever be the same again.

This isn't a story that's easy to read or one for the squeamish - there are graphic descriptions of the injuries caused by a bomb blast that will upset anyone - but at its heart lies a interestingly knotty moral dilemma. The missing five haven't been found guilty of the crime they're accused of - is it right for others to take justice into their own hands? What do you think?

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Headline
Genre - adult crime

Paula Maguire 1; The Lost
Paula Maguire 2; The Dead Ground

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