The Scholar is Dervla McTiernan’s second book with DS Cormac Reilly, and as a crime writer, she has reinforced her position as one of the best new talents around.
Cormac Reilly is an ex-anti-terrorist officer who moved from Dublin to the Galway Gardaí to accommodate his partner, Dr Emma Sweeney, with her new job working with Darcy Therapeutics in a BioTech lab hosted at the University in Galway (NUIG). There is a horrific past attack involving Emma, and moving from Dublin was important for her recovery and provides a new start. The incident details were not revealed in the first book, but Cormac is incredibly protective of her and worries what long term effect the trauma may have had.
Cormac’s relationships within the Galway police force has been anything but straightforward, as he is viewed with caution, suspicion and mistrust. There are those members of the force that recognise his talents and those that are openly difficult. Inter-relationships play an important part, without dominating the narrative. The careful management of the story threads add depth to the environment and are often the catalyst, for the opportunities and skills proffered by Reilly, to become apparent. His boss, Superintendent Murphy, has had Cormac working cold cases with the live workload falling onto DS Carrie O’Halloran, which is now at breaking point and he is eventually given a live case.
In Galway he had the constant sense that things were not exactly right, that everything was slightly off-kilter. A year had passed and he still didn’t know his team well enough to trust them. Murphy may finally have given him a live case but he’d given it reluctantly and he was looking over Cormac’s shoulder. It might be paranoia, but Cormac wondered if he was being set up to fail.
Late one evening, on her way to the Lab, Emma discovers the victim of a hit and run which has left the young woman, dead and badly disfigured. The initial identification comes from a staff ID card in her pocket and it is none other than Carline Darcy, the granddaughter of John Darcy the multi-billionaire owner of Darcy Therapeutics. Emma calls Cormac who arrives on the scene and manages to convince his bosses that he should take the case, which they agree. A decision that will have ramifications for Cormac, a potential conflict of interest and another cause for office misgivings. The victim is eventually confirmed as Della Lambert, but why was she carrying Carline’s ID and what is the connection. Cormac is, however, warned off talking to Carline Darcy, by his superiors.
The novel’s complex and insidious plot is brilliantly developed with misdirection wonderfully structured and believable. What I find extremely impressive with Dervla is not only her ability to imagine multiple diversions but give real life to them. Even when the reader sees threads that are hidden from certain people, the characters still feel totally committed to their version of the truth and it is given room to play out. All the characters are superbly drawn, unforgettable, and it’s impressive to follow the gradual uncovering of personalities and relationships. The background with Emma and the connection with Cormac is revealed in this story and completely adds to the suspicion and actions that may be at play.
The Scholar is a complex and totally captivating crime thriller that promises to fortify Dervla’s connection with a dedicated and rapidly growing fan-base.
I would like to thank Little Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.