Title: The Scholar
Author: Dervla McTiernan
Published: February 18th 2019
Publisher: Harper Collins AU
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
From the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller The Ruin comes a compulsive new crime thriller featuring DS Cormac Reilly.
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?
I was asked in the lunch room at work the other day after mentioning I was attending a local book event with Irish native, WA based author Dervla McTiernan, what writer she could be compared to. This proved to be a hard question, after a few names were thrown in the ring, from Agatha Christie, to Val McDermid and Ruth Rendall, the overwhelming conclusion was that she was simply Dervla. McTiernan is a writer who clearly stands on her own two feet, carving out a niche for herself in the highly popular crime genre. Fans will be pleased with McTiernan’s second offering. The Scholar offers the reader a chance to revisit the appealing lead of Cormac Reilly, while at the same time solving a complex new case.
As a victim of a hit and run lies on the grounds of Galway University, discovered by Doctor Emma Sweeney, seasoned Detective Cormac Reilly is brought in the investigate. This terrible murder has far reaching ramifications, for the victim, Emma and Cormac. A case of mistaken identity emerges as the opening complexity issue of the murder. The case takes Cormac and his team deep into the privileged world of medical research, pharmaceuticals, billion dollar corporations, the university faculty and the tenuous area of sponsorship. For Emma Sweeney, her personal and professional life converge, as the murdered young woman she discovered impacts on her vital research work. Cormac faces a moral and professional clash of ethics. He is increasingly drawn to Emma and her team’s work as the vital clue in cracking this complex murder case. Cormac must push his personal feelings aside if he is to get to the cold hard truth of this baffling case.
Dervla McTiernan makes an explosive return to the crime writing scene with The Scholar, which again features the affable Detective Cormac Reilly. Just shy of a year after the release of the first book in this series, and the debut that made Dervla a household name both in Australia and internationally, The Ruin, The Scholar is a great follow up novel to what I anticipate to be a long running series for McTiernan.
This time around the case is complex, moral and personal for Cormac Reilly. The investigation at hand becomes problematic as soon as Emma Sweeney, Cormac’s partner, is the one to discover the body of the deceased woman. This throws up all sorts of moral and ethical dilemmas for Cormac. He must grapple with his feelings for Emma and his professional need to solve the case. McTiernan handles this aspect of the case with a sense of ease and insight. I enjoyed it very much.
There are some really interesting themes and sub strands that The Scholar raises. McTiernan shows her full commitment to these narrative threads and the process of working through issues of university level research, the pharmaceutical world, ambition, expectation, pressure and greed is explored with integrity. McTiernan’s style is astute and the process of working through the various scenarios as a result of these themes offered a great exercise of the mind.
There is a good balance between the case at hand and the personal lives of the principal protagonists. There is also a sense of familiarity that follows McTiernan’s returning characters. McTiernan does a fine job with the police mechanics, she explores the process of investigation, the impact of budgets cuts, the level of overtime taken on by the police, the role of Cormac’s fellow team members and his superiors. I think crime fiction fans will appreciate the angle McTiernan has taken to the police work side of her latest novel. The final results and the conclusion to the case offers up plenty by the way of intrigue, suspense and surprising results.
As with the previous novel penned by McTiernan, the sense of place in The Scholar forms as much a character as the actual protagonists that inhabit this novel. I have come enjoy and look forward to McTiernan’s setting descriptions very much. The locale based passages form an extra piece of the overall narrative. In particular, I appreciated the chance to walk in the shoes of a detective based in Ireland on the beat, which is far removed from my own life in Sunny Western Australia.
‘They turned off into Distillery Road. It was a narrow road flanked by 1960s houses that had once been home, all bought up by the University for Use as offices and tutorial rooms. You could follow Distillery Road down to the river, which was where the private laboratories were located, or you could take a sharp right that would lead you past the university chapel and onward to the entrances to the library, the larger university canteen and coffee shop, and the concourse. Cormac knew the campus well.’
A convergence of underhanded tactics, the power of ambitious drive, the pressure to fulfil expectations, privilege, the influence of corporate agendas and corruption all play a part in The Scholar. Paired with the inviting influence of Detective Cormac Reilly leading proceedings, add The Scholar to your reading list if you are looking for a new thriller, or a crime series that is impossible to put down.
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan was published on 18th February 2019 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Scholar, Dervla McTiernan visit here.
*I wish to thank Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Scholar is book #39 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge