If Looks Could Kill ~ Olivia Kiernan

used red coffee cup and saucerA man walks into a public garden in the heart of Dublin. It is lunchtime and the park is slowly filling up with people taking a well-earned break. He opens his bag and removes a gun. However, this is no modern day killing spree, instead he lifts the gun, places it to his temple and pulls the trigger.

If Looks Could Kill is the third in Olivia Kiernan’s series concerning Gardaí officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan, assigned to the Bureau for Serious Crime in Dublin. As she says, they are the first stop for all serious crime that may be of national interest. The death in the park, however, doesn’t initially come to her attention. It’s very clearly a suicide and therefore not of sufficient significance to merit investigation at her level. The case that does drop into her lap is that of Debbie Nugent, reported as a missing person, but from the blood-splattered state of her home, almost certainly either seriously injured or murdered. Initially, suspicion falls on the younger of Debbie‘s two daughters, Margot. It becomes increasingly clear that Debbie has been missing for much longer than was first apparent and, given that Margot lives with her mother, questions are automatically raised about why she hasn’t reported her absence sooner. When Margot is taken into custody and charged with the crime, Frankie’s boss, Commissioner Donna Hegarty, would like to see the case all neatly packed away but Shelly Griffiths, an old University friend and something of a rarity in crime fiction, a reporter who isn’t out just for a good story, contacts Frankie with information that suggests there may be other factors in Debbie‘s past that need to be taken into consideration. Why has she been so solitary, so private? Why has she so tightly controlled the lives of both her children, especially that of Margot? And what, if anything, is her connection with the man who shot himself in that Dublin park?

In an attempt to find out more about Debbie‘s background Frankie and her immediate boss, Jack Clancy, look to the local police force, in the personages of DS Alex Gordon and retired Detective Sergeant, Dennis Fitzsimons, for help. but no one seems to be able to give them any information that might suggest a culprit other than Margot. However, what you see is not always what you get. Advising Frankie at the very onset of her career, her Gardaí officer father tells her

it’s important to know who you are, love, but more important to know how others see you.

What Frankie needs to do is to remember the corollary to that, namely that it is possible that how you see someone is how they want you to see them and not who they really are. Hampered by her uncertainty as to who can and cannot be trusted and thwarted in her attempts to dig deeper into the past of the Dublin suicide by the Chief of the Gardaí Surveillance Unit (who really thinks he is someone) Frankie is forced to turn for help to the very criminal element she should be trying to put behind bars.

Olivia Kiernan is an extremely accomplished writer. She has been likened to Tana French and I would certainly put her writing alongside that of Jane Casey. And you all know how well I think of her as a writer. Her characters are finely drawn, and she plots very tightly. She also ensures that particular themes echo throughout a novel. Here, as I’ve already indicated, it’s very much to do with the question of the persona that somebody puts on as a public face and the question of who that person really is behind what may be a very deceptive mask. A further question that is raised early on is that of whether it is better to follow your instincts or to follow the evidence, a deliberation that is the source of much tension between Frankie and Commissioner Hegarty. Following events in the previous novel, The Killer in Me, Frankie vows to become more cautious, less reliant on instinct rather than evidence. Perhaps what she learns here is that you need to combine the two and use your instinct to make sure you look for evidence in the right place. If Looks Could Kill reinforces Kiernan’s growing reputation in the crime fiction world and if you haven’t already met her work then I strongly recommend her to you.

With thanks to Quercus and NetGalley for the review copy.

11 thoughts on “If Looks Could Kill ~ Olivia Kiernan

  1. Liz July 25, 2020 / 7:39 am

    Oh wow, this is a post to get the pulse racing – what will it be like to read the book?!


    • Café Society July 25, 2020 / 7:48 am

      Kiernan is undoubtedly one of the rising stars of crime fiction, Liz. If you haven’t read her earlier books then I suggest you go back and start at the beginning. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.


  2. stargazer July 25, 2020 / 9:33 am

    Thanks for the recommendation, I’m always looking for new (to me) crime writers. Mind you, I haven’t read any Jane Casey yet, so need to rectify that…


    • Café Society July 25, 2020 / 9:54 am

      You definitely need to read both authors. I envy you the chance to meet all their work for the first time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) July 25, 2020 / 11:02 am

    Sounds brilliant – I’ve only read the first Kiernan, so have another to go. I should read Casey too – keep meaning to check her out every time you mention her. I’m finally reading the new William Shaw – Started at 7.30 this morning when I woke up and didn’t get up until after 11! About 3/4 of the way through – and hotting up for the finish nicely.


    • Café Society July 25, 2020 / 1:50 pm

      You’ve probably finished it by now, Annabel. I hope you enjoyed every bit as much as I did! Like Kiernan and Casey Shaw is excellent.


  4. Cathy746books July 25, 2020 / 2:22 pm

    I haven’t read Kiernan yet, but I’m hearing great thigns. Would you recommend reading them in order?


    • Café Society July 25, 2020 / 2:28 pm

      Definitely. This is the third, so not many to catch up on. And unlike some writers, who take time to warm up, Kiernan hits the ground running right from the start.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Café Society August 9, 2020 / 12:48 pm

      She’s excellent, Mary. One of the very best around at the moment. Do start at the beginning.


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