Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Borderlands, by Brian McGilloway (hardcover, $23.95)

The theme of this book is "men are dumb." The corollary is "even smart men are run by hormones, not brains." It's a good thing a man wrote this book.

These days it is rare to find the hero of a story who has an intact, functional family. Irish police inspector Ben Devlin is such a character. He has a wife and two young children, and lives a mostly quiet life on the border of North and South Ireland. He lives his life with a sturdy moral compass, and tries to defend and protect with restraint and a respect for his fellow citizen. So it is especially catastrophic when he finds himself in situations where he cannot control his emotions. This is not just a police procedural, but a glimpse of how one regular Joe faces one ethical dilemma after another. Am I giving something away by saying that Devlin does not always fall on the right side of the line? Of course, the book would not be as interesting were he to always choose the right door.

A teenage girl is found murdered on the border, and it will take cooperation between the two countries to decipher why she was murdered. The girl's stepfather is well known to the police as a drunk and disorderly troublemaker. The rest of her family and acquaintances are not without their problems. There is no lack of suspects. Then the story becomes more complicated, when a ring the girl was wearing leads to more stalwart members of the community. And this is also when the author provides several instances of men being dumb.

McGilloway does a good job of quietly depicting two countries in which cultural divisions still run deep. It is the subdued background against which Devlin and his team must understand what motivates the killer.

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