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Irish Women Are Reinventing the Thriller


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Irish women have been known as many things around the world; feisty, tough, kind to name just a few of their well-known traits. All “Irish Mammies” at heart—“Cup of tea? You will, you will, you will …”

But let’s not forget that Ireland has been making a name for itself in recent years as the home of world-class thriller writers. So knowing Irish women as you do, it should come as no surprise that they’re blazing a trail, with murder on their minds.

On the off-chance that you haven’t been paying attention, let me introduce you to just a few of them.

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Liz Nugent, Little Cruelties

All three Drumm brothers were at the funeral, although one of us was in the coffin.” If there’s one thing I can tell you about Liz Nugent; she’ll always hook you with her opening line. She also introduces the reader to a whole host of un-likable characters, but her novels are both dark and twisted and will leave you wanting more. As all good thrillers do. In Our Little Cruelties, all three Drumm brothers take us through their childhood, filled with ferocious jealousy and manipulation, while we try to figure out which of them is in the coffin and how exactly he might have gotten there.

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Catherine Ryan Howard, The Nothing Man

This is a very clever, book within a book, type thriller that will glue you on the edge of your seat. Picture a serial killer, past his prime and now living an ordinary, if unhappy life with a wife and daughter. Imagine him reading a book about his own crimes, written by Eve, one of his surviving victims. It’s a cross between a memoir and an investigation into The Nothing Man, penned twenty years after he murdered her family. The Nothing Man left no trace and was never apprehended and now he must find Eve and finish the job before his true identity is finally exposed. What I love about The Nothing Man is how Catherine Ryan Howard manages to write the true crime, non-fiction theme of Eve’s book, without compromising on the thriller fiction that we all came for.

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Claire McGowan, The Push

Northern Irish woman, Claire McGowan is the author of the seven-book Paula McGuire (state pathologist) series and has a number of stand-alone thrillers. The Push is her most recent and it doesn’t disappoint. Six couples from the same baby group, come together to celebrate their new arrivals. The perfect party—until one of them falls from a balcony and DS Alison Hegarty is called to investigate. As she does, the secrets and conflicts within the group come pouring out. The Push doesn’t just keep us guessing about the killer, but the victim too. The Push is a real whodunit told from the various viewpoints of each character. Claire’s other books The Other Wife and What You Did are definitely worth a read too.

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Jane Casey, The Cutting Place

Dublin born Jane Casey is the international bestselling author of the Maeve Kerrigan series, following the ambitious detective constable who is keen to make her mark on the murder task force. The Cutting Place is book 9 in the series and sees Ds Kerrigan having to immerse herself in the ruthless and outrageous world of elite gentlemen’s clubs after a young journalist goes missing while working on a story about the parties and behavior that goes on behind their closed doors. This is a tight, chilling and disturbing thriller as are all of the Maeve Kerrigan books. Pick up any one and you won’t be disappointed.

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Arlene Hunt, No Escape

Arlene Hunt’s dark and atmospheric thrillers perfectly capture Ireland’s grimy underworld and delves into the world of people trafficking and turf wars. No Escape sees Sisters Yulia and Celestine brought to Ireland by the Ward family under the false promise that it would be a sanctuary for them. An escape from their violent past. Instead they find themselves in another level of hell. The Wards are involved in a turf war with the Kennedy’s which is escalating out of control. As tensions rise across the city, old loyalties are sorely tested in this tense thriller. The pages will quite literally turn themselves.

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Dr Marie Cassidy, Beyond the Tape: The Life and Many Deaths of a State Pathologist

Throughout my life, the name Dr Marie Cassidy was synonymous with murder and tragedy. She was Ireland’s state pathologist from 2004 – 2018 and when her name was mentioned on the news, you immediately perked up to watch this woman in white overall’s making her way into the scene of the crime. Her much anticipated book, Beyond the Tape was released in 2020. If you’re looking for the gory bloodbath that I’m sure her life looked like at times, this isn’t the book to find it in. But it is a compelling look at the life and career of someone whose very life was what great crime thrillers are made of.

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Sinéad Crowley, One Bad Turn

This is the third in Sinéad Crowley’s Ds Claire Boyle series which the Irish Times calls sensationally good. I’d have to agree. In One Bad Turn, Ds Boyle takes her young baby to the doctor’s surgery, only to be caught up in a terrifying hostage situation where the villain is a childhood friend of the doctor.  Like Sinéad Crowley’s other novels, there’s no shortage of person conflict between characters and you find yourself becoming invested in them from the very first page.

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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