Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.
Buried is a book that grabs you by the throat from the very begining, and just doesn’t let go; a tautly and intricately plotted thriller that really moves along at a brisk pace.
It opens with two workmen, Declan and Colm and their dog Christy renovating an old house. It hasn’t been decorated in years and needs to be completely refurbished. However, Christy is refusing to come inside. They soon discover the reason for Christy’s reluctance when Colm ‘jimmies’ up a floorboard and finds that some of the previous tenants of the house never left. In fact the entire family, parents, their little girl and baby and their two dogs are all down there. They are all covered in dust and have obviously been there for some considerable time. But, as the gunshot wounds to the back of each of their heads demonstrate, they’ve been murdered, and were never expected to be found.
The local police are busy with an undercover operation involving illegal cigarette sellers in a local flea market. One of the things I noticed throughout ‘Buried’ is the amount of smoking that characters do. Detectives Aisling O’Connell and Gerry Barry are waiting for their suspect, Denny Quinn, as they man a stall. At last their quarry arrives but has no wish to speak to them and then flees. As they corner and attempt to arrest him, Denny slashes Aisling across the face and when Barry gives chase he is deliberately crushed by the drivers of a stolen Land Rover. He later dies in hospital. Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire now knows that this is more than just about cigarette smuggling.
Forensics confirms that the family under the floorboards have been there since the 1920’s and a garrulous neighbour recalls a previous family, the Langtrys, who lived in the house and who vanished one day. They were presumed to have emigrated to America and had apparently sent cards and letters to relatives confirming this. She also gives Katie an Army badge that the Mrs Langtry, Radha, gave her for safekeeping. Was she having [as was strongly rumoured] an affair with a British soldier?
The two investigations are destined to collide and intertwine with each other due to Bobby Quilty a local gangster. He’s suspected of the smuggling which may, on the face of it, appear harmless, but is worth €30,000,000 and Quilty uses it to fund the Authentic IRA. For, despite the Good Friday agreement, there are those who still wish to carry on the fight for a united Ireland.
Bobby wants Katie to leave his profitable operation alone, as he sees it as ‘a public service’. He has an insurance plan to ensure that she obeys. He has abducted and hidden Katie’s ex-lover, John Meagher.
But when John unsuccessfully tries to escape his dim-witted captors, Chisel and Sorcia, they take it into their own hands to make sure that he doesn’t try it again – a decision that is destined to be life changing for both John and Katie.
And there are those within the community who want revenge for the Langtrys and consider that the killers’ distant relatives should atone for them. For this is Ireland, where family loyalties run high and scores need to be settled. And Bobby Quilty is behind it all, as the bodies soon begin to pile up.
In the middle of it all Katie is helped by Alan Harte, an ex-police officer who has an axe to grind with Bobby and she also makes the decision to send in Detective Sgt Ni Nualla [aka Kyna] undercover to find out where John’s being held and to try and rescue him if possible. And who is the mole or moles within the police station? Bobby has inside information from someone, but who?
The stage is now set for an explosive climax.
This is the sixth book in the Katie Maguire series but my first read in the series, and one that I will revist. Kate doesn’t fulfil the usual clichés of a female in a male environment. She’s bound to have made enemies on her rise up the ranks but this is only hinted at in Buried. I am aware of Graham Masterton in his previous incarnation, as a bestselling horror writer and this still lingers on in his very visceral descriptions of the effects of shootings and bombs. Not one for the squeamish.
According to his website, Masterton lived in Cork for five years, and this shows in his knowledge of the area and the subsequent convincing scene setting. Some of the Cork slang may be baffling at first but Masterton thoughtfully provides a handy guide on www.katiemaguire.co.uk.
The former horror author knows how to ratchet up the tension and keep it up right until the end, with a final twist. It was an interesting subplot in how the apparently harmless crime of cigarette smuggling could be a front for more dangerous and deadly activities. What I found most disturbing was the notion that revenge had to be visited on innocent people, solely because they were related to the murderers of a family who died years before they were even born.
Buried was utterly convincing in its depiction of the Cork underworld and a great introduction to Detective Sgt Katie Maguire.