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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Soho Crime, 368 pages, $27.95 (release date - 9/22/15)

Stuart Neville’s bleak, uncompromising, noirish view of Northern Ireland is unsettling and difficult to read sometimes. There is no doubt that Neville is a powerful writer. His DI Jack Lennon series is exceptional and laudable. His standalone, “Ratlines,” was an eyeopener. I had to read “Those We Left Behind” in small sections because it was emotionally so raw. Everyone has a disability, an issue, a hole in their souls.

DCI Serena Flanagan has just returned to duty after attending to a personal issue. She is out of step with the rest of the force and is driven even further afield when an old case steps to the forefront. Ciaran and Thomas Devine were foster children when Ciaran confessed to killing their foster father. Flanagan always thought Thomas had actually committed the murder and forced his younger sibling to take the blame.

Paula Cunningham is the probation officer assigned to Ciaran, and her sympathies, too, lie with him. He is now nineteen and just released from institutional care. It is her job to see that Ciaran fits into a society he only remembers through a childhood haze. He certainly is not capable of carrying on as an adult. Judged merely an accessory to the crime, his brother Thomas has been out for a couple of years. All they have to do is stay out of trouble and they are home free.

Easier said than done.

Daniel Rolston, the son of the murdered foster father, has had his life destroyed by the Devine brothers. His mother committed suicide shortly after the murder. When Ciaran is released, Daniel’s life goes into a tailspin. He becomes a stalker and not just of the Devines.

To her occupational detriment, Flanagan wants Ciaran to admit to Thomas’ guilt. To her occupational detriment, Cunningham wants to protect Ciaran from his brother.

The stage is set for lots of tragedy. It’s just a question of how many dead bodies will result, how many tattered professions will be left hanging in the wind, and how bloody it all will be.

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