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The Ruin (or Rúin as it is marketed in Australia) is a police procedural introducing Inspector Cormac Reilly of the Garda Siochana. The novel opens well, with Reilly in his first week in the guards, sent to investigate a call from a desolate farmhouse in the wilds of County Mayo. He finds a dead junkie and her two young children. It is creepy and mysterious. Then, 20 years later, Reilly finds himself newly posted in Galway, being given the cold cases to review. He is an unwelcome blow-in and is being deliberately frozen out of any real police work. But when the young boy Reilly had rescued that night in Mayo turns up dead, reported to have jumped off a bridge, Reilly is brought into the margins of the investigation. 

 

What follows is good in parts. When Reilly is investigating and interviewing witnesses, the story is engaging. When the narrative turns to office politics, it gets confusing – which is probably intentional; and dull – which probably isn’t. And there is a growing sense of confusion about whether characters were supposed to be in Mayo, or Galway, or moved from one to the other. Trying to piece together the different strands of plot becomes more and more of an effort. By the end, I’m really not quite sure how it did all tie up. 

 

This is redeemed to some extend by a few great characters (the elderly Christian busybody from Mayo is brilliant, and the shady defence lawyer also springs to mind). There is also good social commentary on the enormous value placed on the family by the Irish authorities in the late 20th Century. It was the triumph of optimism over common sense. 

 

But the overall sense is of a novel that is too complicated, too long and unevenly paced. 

 

**1/2

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