|Date Published||08 October 2020|
The Body Falls
When the body of a cyclist drops from a muddy bank onto her friend’s Jeep in the middle of a storm, local solicitor Ben (Benedicta) O’Keefe is caught up in a dangerous web in a town cut off by rising flood waters.
The body, that of a middle-aged man, tumbled down from a high bank, possibly dislodged by the heavy rain. The contents of his wallet reveal him to be Bob Jameson, a man Ben had met the previous evening in the pub, who’d come to the area to take place in a charity cycle race. Maeve is relieved to learn that the man is believed to have been dead for some time, and so the collision with her Jeep wasn’t the cause of his death.
When a bridge collapses under the weight of the water and the town is cut off by the flood, Molloy has to find the murderer, amidst fears of whether there will be another killing. The cause of Jameson’s death turns out to be unusual, to put it mildly, and Ben finds herself drawn into a tangled and dangerous web of family relationships and jealousy that have finally come to a head in the claustrophobic confines of a small town in the grip of a monumental storm.
Anyone who knows Ireland knows that when it rains, there really is nowhere quite like it, with grey, lowering skies and rain that seems to fall in a solid curtain. Descriptions of dark, churning flood waters carrying massive chunks of wood and other debris evoke a visceral fear of an uncontrollable natural phenomenon capable of causing horrific damage. Andrea Carter’s depictions of small-town Ireland are always atmospheric, but never more so than under the brooding, leaden skies that dominate her latest Inishowen mystery.
Suspending disbelief can often be difficult when private individuals take a hand in solving crime, but in the case of Ben O’Keefe, her position as the only solicitor in town makes her a unique repository of secrets as locals and even the family of the dead man turn to her as a confidante. Carter has a deft way with both characterisation and plot, making it easy to picture the town of Glendara and its inhabitants as they band together to ride out the effects of the worst storm in living memory that has flooded homes and shops as well as causing an electricity blackout, which only serves to deepen the atmosphere of a beleaguered community with a killer in its midst.
Ben’s relationship with Molloy seems to have reached a steadier state after her time away. I like the taciturn sergeant and his harassed assistant, Andy McFadden. They’re not overburdened by baggage and come over as fairly normal, decent human beings, which makes something of a refreshing change where police in crime fiction are concerned at the moment, where the fashion is for characters carrying more baggage than a freight train.
Ben O’Keefe is sensible, analytical and likeable and makes a convincing repository for the secrets of townsfolk and strangers alike. The books portray the rural Ireland I know and love, but with suitably dark shadows that can – and frequently do – roll in like the morning mist from the sea. A TV series is in production and if it captures even half the atmosphere and captivating characters of the books, it will be well worth watching.
Reviewed 27 November 2021 by Linda Wilson