Mysterious Book Report BorderlandsBorderlands by Brian McGilloway

Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, $23.95, 227 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-38406-7

This week’s MBR number 56 concerns people impacted by their chosen governments in a different way.  The novel is titled Borderlands.  It’s the debut novel of Brian McGilloway who teaches in Derry, Northern Ireland and lives in a small town in the Borderlands—the line along which the Republic of Ireland (Derry) meets the boundaries of Northern Ireland (Londonderry) an infamous location during “The Troubles” of the 1970’s and 80’s.

The mystery begins with the discovery of the nearly-nude body of a 16 year-old girl who turns out to be the daughter of a local gangster in the Borderlands.  Both the Irish Republics An Garda Siochana, (the Garda) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are called out, and offer whatever assistance and aid to each other that they can.  The lead detective in the case is determined by nationality of the victim, which in this case, falls to Inspector Ben Devlin of the Garda.  His only clues in the case are an expensive pearl ring and an old photograph left at the murder scene.  As Devlin searches for the murderer, his job becomes progressively more difficult as friction at home, political meddling, criminal involvement by the father of the young murder victim and bands of roving Travellers all interfere.  Then, when a second young person is murdered, Devlin ties the two cases together with the 25 year-old disappearance of a prostitute and suspects that one of his colleagues may be complicit . . . the case explodes with a labyrinth of possibilities, dead ends and surprising conclusions.  This novel firmly establishes McGilloway in the pantheon of Irish crime fiction writers, alongside the likes of Bruen, Rankin, Neville, and McKinty.  As a number of other reviewers have remarked, I find it hard to believe that this is a debut novel, but it is . . . and it’s so polished, complex and well delivered . . . I rate Borderlands by Brian McGilloway as not to be missed by mystery lovers everywhere.  I, for one, will be busy this year catching up on all the rest of the Inspector Devlin mysteries.  He’s that darn good!


John Dwaine McKenna