Liz Cafferky is the face of Tír na nÓg, a drop-in-centre for men who are down on their luck or feeling lonely. Liz has broken away from a grimy past and is now a well known and respected figure, regularly appearing in the media and the subject of many hashtags. The comments on facebook and twitter are causing her discomfort, but things take a more sinister turn when she receives letters from a 'fan'. The murder of a regular at Tír na nÓg means the police are already in-situ, and Sergeant Claire Boyle is more than ready to get to work. But is she too late to help Liz?
This is the second book from Sinéad Crowley, featuring Sergeant Claire Boyle and for those who know this character from Can Anybody Help Me?, she is a feisty, independent woman . Claire has just given birth to her first child and is dying to get back to work. The mundane life of motherhood does not appeal to her and with the help of her husband, Matt, the time has come to get back to police work. The body of an elderly man is discovered in his own home and this leads the investigation to the door of Tír na nÓg, a refuge for men (similar to men-sheds). This is a place where men can meet, play cards, drink copious amounts of tea and pass the day with a shred of dignity. Inevitably, there are some connections to alcoholism, addiction and more troubled pasts, but for the visitors to Tír na nÓg, no one is there to judge. But the murder brings uncertainty to the refuge, and tensions build. Who can be trusted?
Sergeant Boyle is a different voice in the predictable role of female police officer. She is far from perfect, does not give a hoot about her appearance, never feels the need to 'bond' with other female officials from other law enforcement agencies and is subject to bouts of crankiness and exhaustion. Her daughter is not yet sleeping through the night and herself and Matt have not had a proper date in months. A night in front of Netflix is a luxury and when the couple are actually in the house at the same time, there is an uneasy feeling lingering. Actually, I found Claire to be a bit of a bitch. She is dismissive, arrogant and demanding. Matt is doing his best. Trying to work from home, with a new baby, is not easy. He needs help and Claire is not the one to offer it.
The overall story of this novel is hard to pin down. A murder/mystery, a crime/thriller, a psychological thriller? All apply, yet the narrative is a bit weak. There are lots of boxes ticked; homelessness, addiction, loneliness, depression, yet each link is just not strong enough to have a lasting effect. Liz's 'murky' past is pastel rather than opaque and the writer of her 'fan mail' is a predictable victim of circumstance. There is also an uncomfortable edge to Liz's dealings with the lads in Tír na nÓg. She is not happy there and is an unlikely media heroine, due to this uncertainty.
I really enjoyed Can Anybody Help Me? and was a little disappointed with this sequel. Sergeant Boyle is now just a little too sharp around the edges and the main storyline wasn't strong enough. It is still a good thriller and an ideal summer read, as it is well paced and is not too demanding. It can be read as a stand alone, but to get the full feel of Sergeant Boyle, it would be best to read Can Anybody Help Me? first. Luckily, Claire's character seems to flip a little towards the end of this installment and this bodes well for book three...
Are You Watching Me? is published by Quercus and is available in paperback and ebook format.
You can order it with Free Worldwide Postage (and 18% discount) here
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