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McGilloway, Brian - 'Bleed a River Deep'
Hardback: 300 pages (Apr. 2009) Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 0230701361

Brian McGilloway blends international politics, big business, gold mining, archaeology and people-trafficking in his third, confident police procedural set in the borderlands between the North and the South of Ireland. Inspector Ben Devlin is his own man, never in favour with his superiors and even less so in this outing. With an ability to sense the presence of political expediency but not an ability to accommodate it, Ben has few real friends, other than his opposite number north of the border, Jim Hendry. It is Ben's and Jim's mutual if uneasy respect for each other, together with a disregard for the rule-book and the lack of effective coordination of officialdom on either side of the border, that enables Ben to continue pursuing his conviction that there is a case to be investigated, despite his superiors' attempts to cut him out of the loop.

BLEED A RIVER DEEP opens with the tensions set up among the local community, and environmental activists in particular, by the establishment of a gold mine by US entrepreneur John Weston. During the excavations, an iron-age body (dubbed "Kate Moss") is discovered in a bog, which gives Ben and his possibly corrupt boss Harry Patterson the opportunity to meet Weston, who piles on the charm, offering Ben a very expensive gold necklace for his wife - Ben's acceptance of which strikes a somewhat jarring note in light of the high integrity with which he usually operates. The discovery of "Kate" allows Ben to renew his acquaintance with Fearghal Bradley, an old undergraduate friend and now a university academic in charge of the curation of the find.

Ben is kept busy by the shooting by security guards of a bank robber. The man is not whom he first seems, and soon Ben is struggling to understand the language and mores of the local Chechen immigrant community in order to make headway with this case.

The preparations for US senator Cathal Hagan's arrival for the formal opening of the mine continue. Things go pear-shaped, though, when Fearghal's younger brother Leon, a radical environmentalist, pulls out a gun when the Senator is on the podium - and it looks as if Ben is responsible for the security lapse. Before too long, he's suspended from duty for two weeks - which from his point of view allows him to pursue his investigations without Patterson breathing down his neck - or worse. The plot zigzags to and fro across the border, with the Guards and Hendry's men investigating various crimes which may or may not be connected, compounded by the slightly bizarre discovery of gold nuggets in the river running past the mine, which attracts a camp of hopeful prospectors.

BLEED A RIVER DEEP is nothing if not full of events. Although in this book, more than the previous two, Ben is a committed family man, at work he is a quiet rebel; although he does not make a fuss about it, he doggedly follows his leads until he finds out the unvarnished truth. By refusing to let anything lie, however insignificant it may seem, and by taking an interest in almost everyone he meets, hence discovering their stories, Ben unravels an increasingly complex web involving politics, activism, corporate greed, prospecting, smuggling, passions and violence - while at the same time, an increasing number of corpses lead to an extremely high body count by the book's conclusion, in which most of the lines of enquiry are satisfactorily resolved. Even though the book is published this year (2009) it is set in autumn of 2008, making the regular references to the "Tiger Economy" of Ireland somewhat ironic.

Read another review of BLEED A RIVER DEEP.

Maxine Clarke, England
April 2009

Maxine blogs at Petrona.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/05/2010 14:41