All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

on February 20, 2019

The Scholar (Cormac Reilly #2)
Dervla McTiernan
Harper Collins AUS
2019, 384p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Being brilliant has never been this dangerous …

When Dr Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit and run outside Galway University late one evening, she calls her partner, Detective Cormac Reilly, bringing him first to the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him.

A security card in the dead woman’s pocket identifies her as Carline Darcy, a gifted student and heir apparent to Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics. The multi-billion-dollar company, founded by her grandfather, has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The enquiry into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but as his running of the case comes under scrutiny from the department and his colleagues, he is forced to question his own objectivity. Could his loyalty to Emma have led him to overlook evidence? Has it made him a liability?

This is one of my favourite new series’. I love a good crime series and it’s been a while since I’ve really found one that’s intrigued me as much as this. There’s just two books so far but things look promising for this to continue on for quite some time.

Carrie O’Halloran is feeling overworked. Recently appointed Sergeant, she’s been working long hours with a large number of cases and so when she goes to her boss seeking more balance, she negotiates offloading a couple to Cormac Reilly, who is still pottering around in cold cases, still regarded with some suspicion by some of his colleagues. Meeting Cormac for a drink after work to inform him and brief him on the cases she’s giving him, Cormac receives a phone call from his partner Emma, a research scientist working out of a lab at the local university. She’s found a dead body.

Despite the fact that he probably shouldn’t because Emma found the body, Cormac takes that case too. At first investigation, it seems the body is that of Carline Darcy, heir to a pharmaceutical fortune and it goes without saying that Cormac will have to tread very carefully with such a high profile death. The further he gets into it, the more complicated things become and Cormac gets the feeling there are a lot of people hiding things from him and there are obstructions at every turn. Also, the further the investigation gets, the more things keep coming back to Emma herself and that’s putting Cormac in a couple of very uncomfortable positions.

I really enjoyed the exploration into Cormac’s personal life in this novel. We get some information in the previous book and know he has a long term partner named Emma, which is the reason Cormac moved to Cork. Emma received a very good job offer at the lab and what she’s working on is important and highly specialised. So Cormac was transferred to the local police force and has experienced ostracisation and even downright disdain from some of his fellow officers. Those that worked with him on the previous case have come to respect and even like him – but not everyone is a fan yet. Cormac, for his part, is remarkably hard to ruffle. He tends to take most things in stride….with the exception of things concerning Emma. Here we are given the bare bones about some of Emma’s past and how she and Cormac met but I still feel there is quite a bit to reveal about the two of them together as a couple. This case also has severe consequences for them personally, their relationship takes a bit of a beating and I think that both sides were well presented here, how it happened and why.

I loved both the cases that Cormac ends up investigating – one concerning a family where the father attempted to do something but was thwarted, and the case of the body that Emma finds. The first case shows just how much some of Cormac’s colleagues still irrationally resent him and how preconceptions and misconceptions can play a real role in someone’s lack of professionalism. I feel as though this case highlighted Cormac’s strong character and his general easygoingness as well – I liked the way he dealt with things. And in his detective role, Cormac knows how to connect with people, and get information out of them. And the other case, the more ‘main’ one concerning the body Emma discovered, was incredibly interesting. There were a lot of twists and turns – some were more easy to figure out than others. The who was kind of easy, the why was more difficult and went a lot deeper than originally indicated.

The writing and pacing is so good in this book. It’s not frenetic or anything but it’s a steady pace, increasing in urgency the further you get into the book as more is revealed and Emma seems to be more and more involved. This is a perfect balance for me, of a detective’s professional and personal life. In some ways, Cormac fits into a mould of police detectives in fiction but in other ways he very much does not. I enjoy his methods a lot and his way of relating to people.

This series ticks all the boxes for me – interesting, complex main character, incredibly well thought out criminal investigations and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing on things the whole way through. The writing is so good, I wish I had a dozen more Cormac Reilly books to dive into. Just going to have to be patient and wait for Dervla McTiernan to write them all!


Book #28 of 2019

The Scholar is book #10 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


2 responses to “Review: The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

  1. […] The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan. My review. […]

  2. […] The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan. The second in the Cormac Reilly series, about a detective in Ireland who took a demotion and is regarded with suspicion by most of his work colleagues. This book involves his partner in a crime and these books are just so good. I can’t wait for more. My review. […]

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