Review Blog

Dec 04 2019

The scholar by Dervla McTiernan

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HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9781460754221.
(Age: Secondary-adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Crime, Ireland, University, Corruption. When Cormac Reilly and his girlfriend, Dr Emma Sweeney move to Galway they are hoping to put the past behind them and build their relationship, at the same time establishing their careers. But Reilly has a past and the new police department keep him tethered to cold cases until Emma comes across a body on her way into her lab one night at Galway University campus. She rings him and as he has made his concerns about his relegation to cold cases an issue, is given this case. But her involvement becomes more deeply entrenched causing him anguish and putting him in the spotlight of the police tribunal.
The identification of the body is simply the first of their problems, and mistakes are made from the start. Cormac finds a web of intrigue beginning with the relationship between the dead girl, Della Lambert, an exceptional student who dropped out after the first semester, and Carline Darcy, the granddaughter of the laboratory's benefactor, John Darcy. A missing laptop may hold the clues to what exactly is going on, but first Cormac must combat the mine field of pressure from above, pressure from the tribunal, and legal representatives from the pharmaceutical company which feels it owns Carline and Della's work.
Meanwhile, a disgruntled member of his team, is spreading rumours abut Emma causing people to look more closely at her involvement, and before Cormac can sort this out, her credentials are questioned and her involvement scrutinised. Cormac is taken off the case because of the conflict of interest and investigated, not before putting Emma offside with his questioning. Her past puts her in the frame, and it takes another of Cormac's team, Fisher, to unravel what is going on, despite the risk he is taking on Cormac's behalf.
An exciting crime story, the involvement of big pharma companies and the lengths they will go to protect their discoveries is paramount to the crimes committed, leading the investigators down paths that question the integrity of the laboratory work at undertaken at the university.
Large amounts of money are involved and where there is money, lies power and influence, so Cormac and his team must tread with utmost care. The location of this fine series makes for a fascinating backdrop as the isolation has a part to play, as well as the problematic relationship between north and south.
The first novel featuring Cormac, The ruin was very well received and offers an introduction to his character, along with a gripping story of neglect, so is a good read to have under your belt before the third appears in 2020.
Fran Knight

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