Saturday, March 29, 2014


Pages: 379
Date: 29/03/2014
Grade: 4+
Details: No. 5 Inspector Devlin
             A Dialogues Through Literature
             Reading group read

The blurb:

“'You can't investigate the baby, Inspector. It's the law.' 

Declan Cleary's body has never been found, but everyone believes he was killed for informing on a friend over thirty years ago.

Now the Commission for Location of Victims' Remains is following a tip-off that he was buried on the small isle of Islandmore, in the middle of the River Foyle. Instead, the dig uncovers a baby's skeleton, and it doesn't look like death by natural causes. But evidence revealed by the Commission's activities cannot lead to prosecution. 

Inspector Devlin is torn. He has no desire to resurrect the violent divisions of the recent past. Neither can he let a suspected murderer go unpunished. Now the secret is out, more deaths follow. Devlin must trust his conscience - even when that puts those closest to him at terrible risk.”


My thoughts:

The disappeared:
“Individuals who, during the early days of the Troubles in the North, had been targeted because of some slight, imagined or actual, against the local IRA commanders.”

This book is the fifth title in a series in which I haven’t read any of the previous stories. Although I didn’t feel that affected the way I experienced this book it is of course possible that my review would have been slightly different if I had read the book after the previous four.

This book has a lot going on between its covers. Inspector Devlin is overseeing a search for one of the disappeared when the body of a baby is found. Not only does the baby show signs of having been born with birth-defects, it is also clear she was murdered. The death of an innocent baby, even if it happened decades ago, is not something Devlin can ignore even if he does know that he can’t officially investigate the dead nor use anything he discovers in a prosecution.

Things get more complicated when the son of the ‘disappeared’ man they are searching for is murdered. The waters are muddied even further when a second man is found dead.

When several other babies are found buried, all with similar birth defects, the case reaches a new level of frustration for Devlin. He can’t help feeling that the man who was ‘disappeared’ decades ago, the babies and the recent murders are all connected in some way. But with the law as it stands, he is officially not allowed to investigate anything except the recent murders.

When everything is eventually revealed it does provide answers, but whether or not justice has been served is anybody’s guess.

It is clear from my description there is a lot going on in this book. The disappeared, unbaptised babies, a crying baby that doesn’t appear to exist, ‘normal’, present day murders, ghost estates, cross-border jurisdiction, and private issues in the Devlin household all add to the story in what, occasionally, seemed to be almost an overload of story-line. Having said that, I was impressed with the way in which the author managed to pull all those, apparently separate, issues together in what was a well plotted although not entirely satisfactory conclusion. I would love to say more about this and explain why I found the ending less than satisfactory but can’t do so without spoiling the story. All I say is that it had nothing to do with the writing or the plotting, and shouldn’t be a reason for anyone to not pick up the book.

This book did make me think though. I’ve been aware of the disappeared and the efforts to find them for as long as I’ve been living in Ireland. I have to admit though, that I hadn’t really given it any thought before reading this book. It is one hell of a dilemma. Of course everybody wants to find those who disappeared without a trace decades ago, if only so that their families at last have certainty and the opportunity to bury their dead. On the other hand, the price for that scant comfort – no investigation and no prosecution – seems incredibly high. Just as the fact that those who committed those murders are getting off without any punishment just feels wrong and very far removed from anything justice is supposed to be.

Overall I would call this a good mystery, filled with realistic characters and more than enough issues to ensure the discussion my reading group will be having next week should be lively.

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