3 July 2008


Macmillan New Writing, 2008, ISBN 978-0-230-70619-4, 321 pages.

Jamie Kerr returns to Lifford in the Irish Borderlands on a blustery Sunday morning in May, recently released from prison where he has served a sentence for armed robbery. He was the patsy for the robbery, the driver of the car, shot and abandoned by the other three members of the gang, who were never identified. Jamie was never sure himself who the others were - they all wore balaclavas - but he does know who asked him to be the driver. So Jamie has unfinished business. While in prison he was "born-again" and he tells Inspector Benedict Devlin that he means no-one any harm.

Two local policemen have recently found an old cache of IRA weapons together with some drugs. It's the second such find in as many weeks and it will do their chances of promotion no harm at all, until a local identity suggests that all is not what it seems.

Things are busy this summer too. A young woman is found murdered, bashed to death in what looks like a fit of rage; a second young woman is found alive, narrowly escaping death by the same attacker. And as if Ben Devlin's plate is not already full to overflowing, his boss has announced his imminent retirement, and interviews are being held for promotion. Ben Devlin is committed to his job, but he is worried about the toll it is taking on his family.

Sixty pages into GALLOWS LANE I found that I wasn't taking the story in very well, and I started again. Things made a lot more sense the second time through and I'm not sure why I had to do that, but I'm glad I did. I haven't read much crime fiction set in Ireland, and perhaps it was a combination of a new-to-me setting with a fairly pared back writing style that affected my initial comprehension.

So I guess I'm saying, if it happens to you, don't give up. This is a very well plotted book,with lots of human interest, and a couple of twists that will surprise. The blurb on the back of the book alerts me to an earlier novel called BORDERLANDS which I will certainly look out for.

My rating: 4.2

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