The New Ben Devlin Thriller
– Blood Ties
[ About the Book ]
How can a dead woman avenge herself on her killer twenty years after her murder?
This is the puzzle facing Ben Devlin in his latest case. He is called to the scene of a murder – a man has been stabbed to death in his rented room and when his identity is discovered Devlin feels a ghost walk over his grave as he knows the name Brooklyn Harris well. As a teenager, Harris beat his then-girlfriend Hannah Row to death, and then spent twelve years in prison for the murder.
As Devlin investigates the dead man’s movements since his release it becomes apparent Harris has been grooming teenage girls online and then arranging to meet them. But his activities have been discovered by others, notably a vigilante, who goes straight to the top of Devlin’s list of suspects… until he uncovers that Harris was killed on the anniversary of Hannah’s death – just too big a coincidence in Devlin’s books. So Hannah’s family join the ever-growing list of suspects being interviewed by his team. And then forensics contact Devlin with the astounding news that blood found on Harris’s body is a perfect match to that of Hannah Row’s. Yet how can this be; the girl was murdered many years ago – and Devlin doesn’t believe in ghosts.
[ My Review ]
Blood Ties by Brian McGilloway was published March 25th 2021 with Constable. It is the sixth book in this crime fiction series featuring Inspector Ben Devlin and is described as ‘a gripping Irish police procedural’. I have a habit of jumping into a crime series long after it has started for no particular reason other than that I just do not have enough hours in the day to read all the books that cross my radar. I have had Blood Ties for a few months and picked it up this week, not having any idea of the characters or their back stories, and I need not have had any concerns.
Blood Ties, albeit a police procedural, felt quite an emotional exercise for a number of reasons. Yes there is a murder mystery in the centre but wrapped around the story is the beginnings of our pandemic experiences before any of us knew what lay ahead of us. Brian McGilloway has captured the anxiety and the unease that befell us all and set it as the backdrop to a story that really moved along at a great pace. He also very sensitively writes about that very special and poignant time in all our lives when we realise our parents are now older, with the relationship, in many cases, shifting between parent and adult-child to one of dependence. The three strands of the onset of Coronavirus, a brutal murder and the parent/adult-child relationship are all brilliantly interwoven and set against the political landscape of Northern Ireland, the border between North and South and Brexit.
Blood Ties takes place over the week following the discovery of a body of a man in his thirties in an Airbnb. Inspector Ben Devlin is called to the scene and, on initial inspection, he senses a familiarity with the victim but he just can’t place him. Having been brutally stabbed, the forensic team have plenty to work with while Devlin and his team try to identify the name of the victim. Devlin is shocked when he hears the name Brooklyn Harris, as he remembers well the story of how as a teenager Harris had been convicted of the murder of his classmate Hannah Row. After his release from prison, Harris had been given a new identity but Brooklyn Harris had developed a weakness for young girls and, when the trail is investigated, more sordid details are revealed.
There are many who are glad to hear that Harris is dead but something just doesn’t sit right with Devlin as he delves further into the case and the archives surrounding Hannah Row’s death. Devlin is told by peers and acquaintances to let it go, not to dig any deeper and to just clear up the case at speed, but Ben Devlin doesn’t work like that. He questions suspects on both sides of the border, on occasion stepping outside and beyond his jurisdiction as a member of An Garda Síochána (Irish Police Force) treading on the toes of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). Some of his interference and investigative work is accepted but it soon becomes clear that Devlin has opened a Pandora’s Box.
In the midst of his interrogation of old casework, he gets a very unexpected and shocking call from his forensic team. They have found Hannah Row’s blood at the scene. How is this possible? Devlin realises the insanity of this discovery but, never one to give up, he starts to join a few dots….
Meanwhile Ben Devlin’s father is unwell and, with possible impending lockdown, he decides it best that his father move in with them. A proud man who wishes not to inconvenience anyone, the relationship between father and son is extremely affecting and beautifully depicted by Brian McGilloway. Devlin is distracted and feels his life is imploding, changing beyond recognition. He needs to feel in control of some part of his life, so his determination drives him on in this troubling case in the hope of finally uncovering the truth behind such a vicious murder and the sinister history that has remained hidden in the shadows.
Blood Ties is an extremely atmospheric book, capturing the zeitgeist of 2020 in all its mayhem, while also providing the reader with a tight and engaging police procedural. Ben Devlin has a very authentic personality, a compassionate and passionate individual who just wants to do what’s right for his family and his community. An engrossing story with an intriguing plotline, Blood Ties is quite simply a great read. Thoroughly enjoyable, a real page-turner and one I am very happy to recommend.
[ Bio ]
Brian McGilloway is the author of eleven crime novels including the Ben Devlin mysteries and the Lucy Black series, the first of which, Little Girl Lost, became a New York Times and UK No.1 bestseller. In addition to being shortlisted for a CWA Dagger and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, he is a past recipient of the Ulster University McCrea Literary Award and won the BBC Tony Doyle Award for his screenplay, Little Emperors. He currently teaches in Strabane, where he lives with his wife and four children.
Twitter – @BrianMcGilloway