Having a moment: Irish mystery & thriller authors

Vannessa Cronin on January 07, 2020
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If movie and TV adaptations are a sign that something's trending, then Irish mystery authors are definitely having a moment. I’m two episodes in to Dublin Murders, the TV adaptation of the first two novels in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods and The Likeness, and am hoping there will be more of this series to come. And it’s just been announced that the debut project for Colin Farrell’s new production company will be an adaptation of Irish crime novel—and Amazon Best of the Month pick— The Ruin. Here's a list of the mysteries you can check out on a screen near you, plus a few that we've read and loved and hope to see in glorious technicolor some day.


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In the Woods by Tana French

The TV series, Dublin Murders, mashes together the first two books so you have Detectives Rob Ryan (renamed Rob Reilly), and his partner Cassie Maddox, investigating two separate crimes, to which they each have an uncomfortably close connection. In Ryan/Reilly’s case, three of his playmates were abducted from the woods in 1984—he was the only survivor—and twenty years later, his repressed memories may be the only way of solving the murder of a little girl in those same woods.


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The Likeness by Tana French

Going undercover is the jumping off point of many a good thriller but it’s a little weird in Detective Cassie Maddox’s case: she’s going undercover as Alexandra Madison, a woman who’s recently turned up murdered, who not only looked exactly like Cassie but even used one of Cassie’s undercover aliases from a few years back. Now, not only must she figure out who in this woman’s life hated her enough to kill her, but who was she, and why did she choose Cassie’s identity? Twisty and full of dark corners, it’s no surprise that with this second book, author Tana French was well on her way to becoming a household name.


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The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

One of our favorite mysteries from 2018, The Ruin centers on a detective, Cormac Reilly, who realizes that the dead man pulled out of the river Corrib is the same person he rescued many years earlier. Then, young Jack and his sister Maude were two scared children left alone in the crumbling mansion in which their mother had just overdosed. Now, the harder Cormac tries to unravel the link, if any, between the deaths of mother and son, the more complicated and dangerous it gets in this dark, noirish tale of small-town crime and corruption. And don't miss the follow-up, The Scholar.


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Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

If any film producer wants to make it a trifecta, Sweet Little Lies, the first in a new series, is centered on Cat Kinsella, a young, headstrong London policewoman who keeps her family ties to London’s criminal underworld to herself. But when a murdered woman’s body is located near her Dad’s old pub, Cat thinks her father may be involved. And that solving this murder may well be the key to solving the years-old disappearance of another young woman she thinks may have gotten on the wrong side of her dad. The plot skips back and forth between an idyllic summer in Ireland and the grittier streets of South London but never misses a beat and drives relentlessly towards a pitch perfect ending. Don’t miss this or the follow up, Stone Cold Heart.


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Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

When Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan walks into the quiet, pristine, suburban Dublin home of Eleanor and Peter Costello, Eleanor is hanging from a rope. And Frankie, easing back into work after an almost-fatal brush with a serial killer, is happy to call this one a suicide and sidestep another homicide investigation. But when Eleanor’s husband proves missing, when an autopsy shows old injuries on Eleanor not recorded in her medical file, and when a look at the couple’s laptop reveals Dark Web activity, Frankie may be up to her eyes in just the kind of case she was hoping to avoid. Too Close To Breathe is as much a character study as it is an inventive mystery with gruesome crimes to solve, yet Kiernan holds the reins on both perfectly, never letting one overpower the other. Also, check out the second book in this new series, The Killer in Me.


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The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Chain is a full tilt, pedal-to-the-metal thriller by Belfast-born author, Adrian McKinty. Rachel, a cancer survivor and single mom, receives a phone call that takes the wind out of her sails. The caller, a woman, says that she’s kidnapped Rachel’s teenage daughter and that the only way to get her back safely is for Rachel to kidnap another child. Join the Chain, or your child dies, basically. Unlike say, Liam Neeson in Taken, Rachel has no sets of special skills that she can draw upon to carry out her horrific assignment. And in this fast-paced, do-or-die scenario, there’s little time to debate or defend the lines that must be crossed in order to do what must be done. Which sucks for Rachel and her daughter, but makes for a terrific thriller.


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