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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Stories on Saturdays: If I Never See You Again

Title: If I Never See You Again
Author: Niamh O'Connor
Publisher: Transworld
Published: 2010
Genre: Crime (police)

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says...
On the streets of Dublin, one woman tracks a terrifying killer.

The Detective
Meet Jo Birmingham - single mum, streetwise, and spiky as hell.  Recently promoted, she is one of the few female detectives on the Dublin police force.  But with a failed marriage behind her and two young sons at home, trying to strike the right work-life balance has run her ragged.

The Serial Killer
When Jo identifies the missing link in a chain of brutal killings, she comes under fierce scrutiny from her male colleagues, especially her boss and ex-husband Dan Mason.  But as the body count rises, so do the body parts.  As fear stalks the city, it soon becomes obvious that a serial killer is at large.

A Chilling Game of Cat and Mouse
And so Jo embarks on a terrifying psychological journey to find out who the killer is, and how he is choosing his victims.  Soon she is involved in a deadly game in which the killer is always one step ahead.  Because he knows all the rules ...

My verdict: a pacy crime with unexpected twists and a great cast of characters.  Recommended for crime fans.
This is a complex mystery with an interesting lead character.  It's relatively unusual to come across a female lead detective with children, although of course a complex and often unhappy love life is de rigueur with crime-novel-cops.  I warmed to Jo Birmingham and her struggles to be taken seriously amongst the boys in blue, and was drawn into the story through her character.  She has an ongoing crusade - to get Separate Legal Representation for rape victims - which is mentioned throughout the book and picked up in an author's note at the end.  This clearly is an issue which the author (a crime journalist) has strong feelings about, but she did not allow it to take over the plot, which a lesser writer could easily have done.

The setting of Dublin is strongly present and there probably were references that I missed which would delight those familiar with the city, but I wasn't left with a 'one step behind' feeling.  The supporting characters were also well-drawn and inherently interesting, while the tense relationships between Jo, her teenage son and her ex-husband are effectively portrayed.

The plot itself (in terms of the crimes committed) was complicated and encouraged me to keep reading, but there were times I was surprised at the leaps made and I think there were aspects that were never completely explained - or maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention.  This was not sufficient to stop me reading (I wanted to know where it was going next!) and would absolutely not inhibit me from reading another Jo Birmingham novel in the future.

I received this book via Transworld's Great Crime Caper, but this did not influence my judgement.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this one, but it certainly sounds good. Another to add to my wishlist, I think! :)


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