The only sound in the forest was the wind through the branches; the only light came from the campfire. Jessie stood up, suddenly gripped by a powerful sense of dread. There was something – someone – beyond the darkness, through the trees…
When single father Joe Keenan and his young son Finbar make camp for the night in the ancient forest of Leitrim, little do they imagine their rural escape is about to turn into a nightmare. For deep in the woods they find a corpse… As the remains of dozens more victims are uncovered by police, it becomes clear this is the burial site of a serial killer who has obviously been active, unnoticed, for years.
Arrested for the murders, while his beloved son is sent into care, Joe pleads his innocence to no avail. But criminal behaviourist Jessie Boyle is convinced the killer is still out there. Determined to reunite Joe and his son, Jessie’s investigation turns towards the local community. Who knows the shadowy depths of the forest well enough to hide not just one, but many bodies?
Then someone else goes missing, and the situation takes a terrifying turn: it’s clear the killer is escalating their gruesome spree. Forced to enter the woods alone to save a life, Jessie runs from a killer so skilled at hiding and so clever at hunting, it will take every ounce of her strength to make it out alive…
A gripping, nail-biting crime thriller that will have you hooked from the first page to the final line. Fans of Patricia Gibney, Lisa Gardner and Lisa Regan will not want to miss this.
Shane Dunphy (S. A. Dunphy) was born in Brighton in 1973, but grew up in Ireland, where he has lived and worked for most of his life. A child protection worker for fifteen years, he is the bestselling author of seventeen books, including the number one Irish bestseller Wednesday’s Child and the Sunday Times Bestseller The Girl Who Couldn’t Smile. His bestselling series of crime novels (written under the name S. A. Dunphy) feature the criminologist David Dunnigan. Stories From the Margins, his new series of true crime books written for Audible, has been critically acclaimed and the second title in the series, The Bad Place, is an Audible True Crime bestseller. Website Twitter Facebook Instagram
My thoughts: the second (book one) in a so far excellent series about strange killers and crimes in Ireland, this explores the vampire myth – the Abhartach – possibly one inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula (while it doesn’t include a visit to Ireland, Stoker himself was Irish), the doings and misdeeds of the military, Traveller culture and feuds, some of which date back years, and how a modern police force deals with all of these at times conflicting issues when solving crimes.
Joe Keenan and his son have found human remains in the woods, and despite his ambivalence towards the police, he reports the find, getting arrested and accused of being a murderer into the bargain. Luckily Jessie and Seamus arrive, having been dispatched by their boss to investigate. Pinning a crime on the nearest Traveller is not unusual, it happens wherever a nomadic group are currently staying – it certainly happens in the UK too.
Dunphy treats his Traveller characters with respect, they’re not just caricatures and a list of tropes, Joe is a fascinating man who has travelled all over Europe living a hard life but one recognisable to his ancestors. He’s also wanted by a Traveller family who have become gangsters, for reasons that once explained are terribly tragic. Jessie and Seamus promise to protect him and his small family, leading to escalating violence in the woods.
The Abhartach myth is also useful to one of the characters Jessie and Seamus meet in the small town of Ballinmore, it keeps people from the woods and from looking too hard. Which is why when the military start pushing Dawn and Terri to back off, they go further, digging deep into classified files to find a military secret that has led to deaths and bodies still being found.
The final cinematic showdown outside the police station is a huge set piece worthy of any number of police dramas and reminded me strongly of a book I read a while ago about the Troubles, although this time it was about more personal politics. The answers that are revealed are complex and troubling. I imagine Dawn had plenty to say to her bosses when handing over the report. I look forward to book three.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.