“The Scholar” by Dervla McTiernan
Note: This review is of the Audible version of this novel.
Wishing to step just a bit outside my normal Audible book-listening – which, to some extent, mirrors my interest in reading what I call “airplane novels” or “brain candy” mysteries and thrillers by well-known authors, I downloaded The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan, an Irish lawyer and author. I suppose I was drawn to this Audible book because I’d just worked with Ana Clements, an exceptional voice actor-artist who undertook a County Cork Irish accent for a character in my forthcoming novel, Anarchy. Listening to Aoife McMahon, also a native of Clare, Ireland, narrate The Scholar, I was convinced Ana had done a stellar job with my Caitlin Dugan.
And so back to The Scholar, which I learned was the second novel in a series the author is writing about Cormac Reilly, a police detective, that began with The Ruin. It was an exceptionally good listen.
Cormac is one of the most human mystery-thriller novel characters I’ve encountered, either in print or audio. He isn’t macho, and has moments of self-doubt, recrimination, shoulda-dones. He also shows a sweet loving tenderness toward his girlfriend, Emma Sweeney, but in the course of the story has cause to doubt her. This creates a lot of dramatic tension in a plot which is already deep into a multi-pronged set of what seem to be unrelated events and mysteries. One hopes that Cormac will knit them together as he attempts to solve the primary event, the murder of a young woman.
There were times when I thought there were too many plot branches, and as most readers/listeners would do, I tried to put myself in Cormac’s head to solve and resolve them. He figures them out, to be sure, but with perhaps a bit too much ease. I could not; there really weren’t many evidentiary hooks, but there was certainly enough mystery to keep me wondering – as any good novel ought to do – what happens next?
The answer, in The Scholar, is a lot.
As mentioned earlier, Ms. McMahon does a five-star job of narrating. In a genre so overrun with male authors and macho characters, it was a delight to read a work by a woman with well-drawn, three-dimensional characters of both genders.