The Silent Dead – Claire McGowan

claire mcgowan silent dead

Published 19 November 2015 by Headline


Victim: Male. Mid-thirties. 5’7″.
Cause of death: Hanging. Initial impression – murder.
ID: Mickey Doyle. Suspected terrorist and member of the Mayday Five.

The officers at the crime scene know exactly who the victim is.
Doyle was one of five suspected bombers who caused the deaths of sixteen people.

The remaining four are also missing and when a second body is found, decapitated, it’s clear they are being killed by the same methods their victims suffered.

Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire is assigned the case but she is up against the clock – both personally and professionally.

With moral boundaries blurred between victim and perpetrator, will be Paula be able to find those responsible? After all, even killers deserve justice, don’t they?

My thoughts

The intelligent and heavily pregnant Paula Maguire is back. Claire McGowan brings a fresh instalment of Northern Irish crime, with her heroic forensic psychologist. This series is a firm favourite of mine. We see Paula consult on crimes, joined to a police team and empathise with her complicated personal life.

The story reminds us that there are consequences to acts of brutal violence. The Mayday Five were suspected of being responsible for a bomb that killed and caused widespread mayhem. They escaped justice in the courts. Someone has kidnapped all five members of the gang. They are being tortured and murdered one by one. Will Paula and her colleagues trace the Mayday Five in time to save them?

Through Paula and a journalist, we find out about a community dealing with the aftermath of violence and pain. We slowly get to know the victims of the bomb and the people who loved them. Claire McGowan brings the historical side of The Troubles in Northern Ireland to life and paints a complicated and chilling picture. How is it possible to live side by side with someone who committed a brutal crime? In the post Troubles era, how does someone move on? How does evil impact a community, years after the event? McGowan gives us so much to think about. The morality of the situation isn’t clear cut. Everyone in the community, including the police, knows someone connected to the massacre. Even the Mayor has links to the dark Troubles, with his background. There seems to be little in the way of justice for the relatives and massive amounts of on-going post traumatic pain.

On a slightly lighter note, Paula is heavily pregnant and adds almost a comic touch to the crime scenes. Paula is determined to get involved in the case, in spite of her impending birth and bulky size. She is one tough girl. There are also the amusing ‘Jeremy Kyle’ scenes, where she is not sure who the father is. I like Paula more for her complicated personal life. It makes her more human.

This is a series, where all of the books need to be read in order to fully appreciate Paula and her Northern Ireland environment. I recommend you do so and enjoy this latest one. The Silent Dead is clever. There are not many books that you finish and make you really reflect, over the consequences of death and evil acts. I recommend Claire McGowan, as an author who can construct a compelling story and lift a lid on a part of Northern Irish history that still is relevant to today. Recommended.


My thanks to my review copy from Netgalley and the publishers.






About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
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