Full disclosure: I know Claire personally. We’ve got pissed together in a staggering number of places. I’m a writer, I hang out with other writers, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I got round to reviewing a pal’s book. I’m not going to pull the wordy wool over your eyes and neglect to mention our relationship. That’s not cool. But I will let you know my policy for reading and reviewing my mate’s books (whether on a public forum or face to face): only say something if you liked it. Everyone’s different with different tastes, and even a bad book is hard to write. There’s no point needlessly hurting the feelings of your writing buddy if you don’t dig their work. However, if you love it, and you love them, it’s your duty to tell anyone who’ll listen how bloody brilliant it is. And McGowan’s book is bloody and brilliant.
The Dead Ground is the second in McGowan’s Paula McGuire series. Paula is a forensic psychologist in a current day Northern Ireland specialist team investigating missing persons. In The Dead Ground she is investigating a stolen baby and, in case with many dark twists and turns, soon the disappearance of a heavily pregnant woman…and more. Paula is also pregnant and she doesn’t know who the baby daddy is, and whether she wants to keep it. Let’s hear it for an interesting, multifaceted strong female lead. You know, like a real life woman.
Just like McGowan’s first book in the Paula McGuire series, The Lost, this one plunged me into a world I thought I was familiar with from the telly box news. Turns out I know nothing about post- troubles Northern Ireland. McGowan’s writing illuminates a unique culture, in which the tensions of the past permeate the present. It makes for a fascinating and complex backdrop to what is an incredibly gripping, and at times distressing, story. Be warned the prologue is particularly brutal. And to think I’ve slept in the same room as the mind that conjured that up.
The Dead Ground, Claire McGowan: a heart beating 5/5