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Gallows Lane from Brian McGilloway was published on Friday 4 April. It’s the second in the Inspector Benedict Devlin series set in the Lifford-Strabane area. The first in the series, Borderlands, was also published in paperback on the same day.
So, if you’ve been busy at the last minute organising your ISA before the end of the tax year, I suggest you get out your card and do some clicking or head to your nearest bookshop ASAP. This is certainly a series not to be missed.
In a nutshell: James Kerr has been released from prison and Superintendent Costello wants Devlin to keep an eye on him. ‘I don’t want Kerr coming back here, making trouble, Benedict. If he arrives, convince him to stay back on the Northern side of the border, eh?’ Devlin reluctantly obeys orders, not as convinced as Costello that Kerr’s ‘finding Jesus’ is a front. Then, a body is discovered at a new housing development; the girl has been badly beaten in what appears to be a sexually motivated crime. As Devlin investigates and pursues a local body-builder as the prime suspect, a second body is discovered. This time, its born-again James Kerr who has been crucified, nailed to a tree. With Devlin realising that the cases are linked, a high pressure investigation ensues, putting Devlin and his team under considerable, and almost unbearable strain…
A second novel from a début author is delivered with heavy expectation and anticipation. So, does McGilloway pull it off? Oh, yes. There’s no sense here – none at all – of a writer finding his stride; it’s as if Devlin and crew have been with us for a couple of years already and we’ve already grown to love them as well as the writer’s clear voice.
McGilloway’s strengths lie in plotting; he can turn a coin many times and turn a farthing into a Euro during the process. It is difficult to foresee how the story will develop and a treat to read it as it unfolds.
But, above and beyond that, characterisation is key to any good crime novel and in this, McGilloway excels. He has created a troupe of characters for his series where all make for real people and real lives, drawing in the reader and clutching at their heart strings. Every victim, even if we get to see them as a cold dead body, when first introduced, has a life on the page and a life now over that we care about and hope to seek justice for, as does Devlin. The impact of all events on everybody concerned drives the turning of the pages.
In Gallows Lane, and even though Devlin has it tough, McGilloway concentrates on the impact on one of Devlin’s team: Caroline Williams. It makes for a gut-wrenching read on times.
McGilloway’s novels are essentially police-procedurals, but the psychological impact and theme is never far way. But that’s life and here McGilloway manages to imbue every page with it.
Gallows Lane: it’s much more of a novel than you think you might receive. Don’t miss it, whatever you do!