Title: The Killer In Me
(I received an ARC from First to Read).
Author: Olivia KiernanMy GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Killer in Me by Olivia Kiernan is a solid thriller about a series of murders that rock a small town in Ireland at a critical time when a convict has been released after serving time for the brutal murders of his own parents and the attempted murder of his younger sister.
Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan is roped by her sister-in-law Tanya West, a defense lawyer, into a meeting with Sean Hennessy, who has been released after serving a sentence of 17 years in prison. A mere 15-year-old then, Sean was arrested for the murder of his parents, John and Brid, and the attempted murder of his younger sister, Cara. Following the release of a documentary, Tanya wants to create a case for Sean’s innocence on behalf of her charity which reopens cases of miscarriage of justice.
Frankie agrees to review the footage and see if Sean has a case, even if she doesn’t believe him and her sympathies lie firmly with the victims of his crimes, his parents and his sister, who is now living in isolation under an assumed name as part of the witness protection program.
When the bodies of a husband and wife, Alan and Geraldine Shine, are found in the local church, with the words, Murderer and Victim, written on their bodies. Frankie can’t help but wonder if Sean has anything to do with these murders. The case stirs up media frenzy and Frankie faces administrative pressures to find the killer, while staying a step ahead of the Hennessy investigation to learn if the state was wrong in convicting Sean. Things get complicated further when a local journalist, Connor Sheridan, is found dead with the word, Weapon, written next to him.
Frankie feels compelled to drive into the Hennessy case to see if there are any loose ends there that might explain the multiple murders. Her realization that both Brid and Geraldine were victims of domestic violence helps her to see a link between the two cases. She also remembers that her own life has intersected with that of the Hennessys when Brid walked up to Frankie’s parents’ home to seek help from Frankie’s mother, a social worker, on how she and her children could escape the abusive environment of her home.
As she delves deeper into the investigation, it becomes clear that her boss, Clancy, is hiding something and that her own family is being targeted and that there will be consequences to continuing the investigation. Will she be able to tie up the loose ends before her own family is caught in the crossfire?
Set in Ireland, this is the second book in the Frankie Sheehan series and is written in her first person present tense point of view. I enjoyed reading this one. I found the investigation very real and interesting.
There are similarities that strike us about the Hennessys and the Sheehans. Both families face their own troubles, both fathers are dysfunctional, albeit in different ways. The only difference is that one family recovered and gained strength, while the other didn’t.
We come to understand the scourge of domestic violence and how it destroys lives and families. We also learn of the dangers that police personnel encounter everyday as they come face to face with the worst of human evil and depravity. Sometimes when you look into the mouth of that kind of evil, it’s hard to look away. You think, give it another few moments, your eyes will adjust, you’ll see the bottom of that darkness, understand it. It’s alluring. Addictive. And whilst you’re standing there rooted to the spot, you’re not noticing that the…shadow is closing over you and you’re disappearing.
The book also discusses the theme of memories, repressed and tortured, and about the toll that domestic violence takes on victims, especially children, as can be seen in the two quotes below.
The mind is a fragile being, a vulnerable mesh of soft cells. Malleable. The hard shell of the skull unable to shield it from memory or nightmare, loops both together in the brain’s primitive pool for survival making memory unreliable.
I learned about the terror that reigned over our lives, infused by the mundaneness of domesticity, having breakfast together while nursing bruises. Ironing school uniforms, polishing shoes among the mayhem. All the small events that told us that we were normal. But we weren’t.
There’s a mild degree of offensive language in the form of F-bombs, which show up when the team is frustrated about the slow investigation and the dead ends they face.
At 352 pages, the book is a long read, but it doesn’t feel slow or unnecessary at any point. The author builds up the atmosphere so well that I almost felt as if I were walking the streets of the seaside town of Clontarf in spite of never having been to Ireland.
The title refers to the bitter truth about how circumstances might so easily drive a good person to make a bad decision. Could there be a killer in us that can rise, given sufficient provocation?
I hope we never find out.
(I received an ARC from First to Read).