I’m not a huge fan of travel books, the endless lists of the best things to see, the best hotels to stay in, the best places to eat. It’s all rather subjective and oftentimes dependent on sponsorship and payment in kind. I much prefer stories about experiences with the details I need knit into the narrative. I’m a big fan of Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano series – it was my introduction to Sicily. James Alfred Wight (better known as James Herriot) guided me through the Yorkshire Dales. Julie Smith has given me a familiarity with New Orleans and its surrounds using her lady-cop series featuring Skip Langdon and her lady PI/poet Talba Wallis. Dana Stabenow does an excellent job of showcasing Alaska with her detective Kate Shugak. Peter May makes the Scottish islands come alive through the eyes of Finlay McLeod. Timothy Hallinan made Bangkok more interesting for me with his chap Poke Rafferty. And the list goes on.
I realised recently that I’ve a fondness for books set in other places yet have read very, very few set in Dublin, or Ireland more generally. I’ve read a couple of American-born Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series and enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to watching the BBC series based on the first two. But more recently, I’ve discovered Reilly Steel:
Forensic investigator Reilly Steel, Quantico-trained and California-born and bred, imagined Dublin to be a far cry from bustling San Francisco, a sleepy backwater where she can lay past ghosts to rest and start anew. She’s arrived in Ireland to drag the Irish crime lab into the 21stcentury […]
I’ve been taken by the Irish gardaí and their reaction to the blonde Californian and her efforts to come to grips with Dublin banter. The two books I’ve read, Taboo and Victim,♦ have kept me guessing for a lot longer than most of the crime fiction I read. That they’re set in and around Dublin is a bonus. But it’s funny how I’m reacting to them. Especially when the bad guy in Victim was holed up outside my village at home. Clane. I spent some time wondering if any of the three pubs are white with a brown room, and how the Harringtons I know all live in houses visible from the road. I had to remind myself it was fiction.
Yet I have no problem believing in gruesome murders in any other part of the world. James Elroy’s 1987 novel Black Dahlia which ‘solved’ the gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short in LA in 1947, was based on a true story so very believable indeed. Short had been drained of blood and halved leaving her looking for all the world like a mannequin. The blood, gore, and death in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian were disturbing but credible because it happened elsewhere. But Casey Hill’s Reilly Steel is dealing with some truly sick murders that take place in Ireland and I’m in denial.
Perhaps there’s some deep-seated part of me that has fictionalised Dublin in particular and refuses to believe that such blatant evil could live there and not only live but thrive. I had a similar reaction to the TV series Love Hate. When I commented to those-in-the-know about how far the plotline was from reality, I was taken aback to hear that the actual situation was much worse.
Suddenly, the romanticised version of Ireland held by so many Irish-Americans, a version that has made me roll my eyes to heaven on more than one occasion and sigh inwardly saying to myself – Oh, if only they knew! Suddenly that all makes sense. It’s been a while since I’ve lived in Ireland full-time. My news I get from frequent visits home, and the papers, the TV, and the radio. I thought I was clued in. Sadly not.
The question then became – Who is Casey Hill and was he (or she) making it all up or basing it on some sort of reality.
Casey Hill is the pen name of Irish husband-and-wife writing duo Kevin and Melissa Hill. He apprenticed as a fitter with Irish Rail, she worked in banking. An established author on the chick-lit scene with her books hitting No. 1 on the bestseller lists more than once – remember Something from Tiffany’s? – Hill’s A Gift to Remember is now a Hallmark movie. She’s earned her stripes. But she wanted to park the sentimentality and dig into the darker side of the human mind. The couple first published in 2011 and have been writing since with their novels translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japenese, Polish, and Russian. And Taboo has been optioned for TV.
I’ve not been able to find out what drives the pair, what inspires these murders. I did find a poor quality video of an interview they did at the Horse Show back in 2014… but it speaks more to the how than the why. Still, my issues aside, it’s promised to be a great series and I’m grateful that Clane finally made it into the realms of fiction.
♦ I’ve also seen this title listed as Inferno and Torn but all three are tagged as the No. 2 book in the series and carry similar descriptions. Most peculiar.