The best Irish murder mysteries with great characterizations and settings

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Canadian writer born in Northern Ireland. My first book, A Nice Place to Die, introduced Northern Ireland detective DS Ryan McBride. In 2019, A Nice Place to Die won the RWA Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Mystery and Suspense, was shortlisted in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards in 2021, and was a 2023 Silver Falchion Award finalist. As for my choices, each of these fabulous, atmospheric mysteries has richly drawn settings inhabited by characters the reader comes to care deeply about. This brings a book alive for me — each has a wonderful, compelling cast of characters and a clever, complex plot.


I wrote...

A Nice Place to Die: A DS Ryan McBride Novel

By J. Woollcott,

Book cover of A Nice Place to Die: A DS Ryan McBride Novel

What is my book about?

The body of a young woman is found by a river outside Belfast, and Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride makes a heart-wrenching discovery at the scene, a discovery he chooses to hide even though it could cost him the investigation – and his career.

The victim was pleasant but tended to keep to herself. Why would anyone want to harm her? And is her murder connected to a rapist who’s stalking the local pubs? As Ryan untangles a web of deception and lies, his suspects die one by one, leading him to a dangerous family secret and a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep it. And still, he harbors his secret... A dark and twisty tale centered in Belfast and the lovely countryside around it.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Mountains Wild

J. Woollcott Why did I love this book?

Sarah Stewart Taylor is an American writer who has lived and studied in Ireland.

Her books offer complex, intelligent plots filled with flawed yet compelling characters. Maggie D'arcy, a detective in the North Shore of Long Island and divorced mother of a teenage girl, offers to go to Ireland to follow up on a phone call her uncle Danny received.

His daughter, and Maggie’s cousin, Erin, has been missing for twenty-three years, since disappearing on a hike in the Wicklow mountains. Back then, Erin went to Dublin to try and find her, and became involved in the initial enquiry. Now the Irish police have found something, a buried scarf they believe belonged to Erin. And another girl has gone missing.

The settings are finely-drawn––you can feel the rain and smell the peat fires. A beautifully written novel, not to be missed. That rarest of treats, a literary mystery.

By Sarah Stewart Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mountains Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D'arcy's family received a call from the Dublin police. Her cousin Erin has been missing for several days. Maggie herself spent weeks in Ireland, trying to track Erin's movements, working beside the police. But it was to no avail: no trace of her was ever found.

The experience inspired Maggie to become a cop. Now, back on Long Island, more than 20 years have passed. Maggie is a detective and a divorced mother of a teenager. When the Gardai call to say that Erin's scarf has been found and another young woman has gone missing, Maggie…


Book cover of Blood Ties

J. Woollcott Why did I love this book?

McGilloway writes a taut, intricate novel, his focus is on story and character.

We see an Ireland torn by the Troubles and how all this affects and plays into everyday life. His settings are concise and spare. Here is a novel with a strong and engaging protagonist who solves several disturbing murders by not giving in to outside pressures. A terrific read. 

A man is found stabbed to death. Garda Inspector Ben Devlin is shocked to learn that he’s heard of him. The victim has just been released from prison after spending twelve years inside. As a young lad he was jailed for the rape and murder of a teenage girl.

Devlin’s beliefs are tested when the current opinion is that the man got what was coming to him, but is that justice? Devlin doesn’t think so.

By Brian McGilloway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood Ties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A compulsive police procedural, but it's so much more than that: thought-provoking, compassionate and beautifully-written. McGilloway is one of the finest crime-writers working today' Ann Cleeves

'Blood Ties is one of those rare gems; a beautifully written crime novel that's also brilliantly paced, skillfully plotted and utterly absorbing. Brian McGilloway is, quite simply, a master of his art. Bravo' Jo Spain

'Brian McGilloway's police procedurals are a masterclass in crime fictions' Andrea Carter

'A clever, engaging and beautifully crafted police procedural' Irish Independent

'Some of the very best crime fiction being written today' Lee Child on Bad Blood

__________________

How…


Book cover of The Cold Cold Ground

J. Woollcott Why did I love this book?

McKinty takes you right to the streets of a city in chaos. An excellent, edgy, police procedural with a great sense of place––and McKinty doesn’t spare the language or violence in DS Sean Duffy’s first appearance.

In 1981 Belfast, it seems a serial killer is targeting homosexuals––an anomaly in Ulster during the troubles when most murders are sectarian. Just as Duffy starts to doubt this angle, a young woman, ex-wife of a hunger striker, commits suicide, or was she murdered––and was she connected somehow to the killings?

We’re immediately caught up in Duffy’s dysfunctional world, he’s a Catholic detective in the predominantly Protestant RUC. A hard drinker, too smart for his own good, but with a strong moral compass. 

By Adrian McKinty,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Cold Cold Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, The Cold Cold Ground is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles -- and of a cop treading a thin, thin line.

Northern Ireland, spring 1981. Hunger strikes, riots, power cuts, a homophobic serial killer with a penchant for opera, and a young woman’s suicide that may yet turn out to be murder: on the surface, the events are unconnected, but then things -- and people -- aren’t always what they seem. Detective Sergeant Duffy is the man tasked with trying to get to the bottom of it all. It’s no easy…


Book cover of The Guards

J. Woollcott Why did I love this book?

It’s hard to describe the raw power of The Guards, the first book in the Jack Taylor Series. Bruen writes with ferocity and bloody emotion.

He’s honest too, with no time for explanation or translation. You won’t find a glossary of terms at the back. Either you accept the language and the writing or you toss it away, and I can’t see too many people doing that.

Jack Taylor is thrown out of the Guards for drinking and general misbehaviour and he sets himself up as a booze-fuelled PI. His first job arrives from a lovely woman who disputes her daughter’s suicide. He takes on the assignment, the woman, and his drinking.

Bleeding, bloody and bitter, he solves the case, loses the woman, and his battle with alcohol is a draw at best. A powerful, exceptional read.

By Ken Bruen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Guards as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Síochána—the Guards, Ireland's police force—and staring at the world through the smoky bottom of his beer mug, Jack Taylor is stuck in Galway with nothing to look forward to. In his sober moments Jack aspires to become Ireland's best private investigator, not to mention its first—Irish history, full of betrayal and espionage, discourages any profession so closely related to informing. But in truth Jack is teetering on the brink of his life's sharpest edges, his memories of the past cutting deep into his soul and his prospects for the future nonexistent.…


Book cover of The Ruin

J. Woollcott Why did I love this book?

This is the first of Dervla’s Detective Cormac Reilly books - and what a wonderful start to a new series.

Here is a book as dark and unpredictable as the early spring weather in Galway. Cormac springs to life, fully formed as a complex, honest policeman, uncompromising and determined to solve a case that has re-emerged after haunting him for over twenty years.

Back then he rescued a little boy and his sister from terrible squalor and abuse. Now grown up, that boy has apparently committed suicide and his missing sister has returned claiming he was murdered and accusing the police of a cover up.

Add to this, Cormac’s own problems with a new posting in Galway, a hostile squad of detectives and a relationship he’s frantically trying to hold on to. A wonderful, complex, engrossing book.

By Dervla McTiernan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ruin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's been twenty years since Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her crumbling Georgian home. But he's never forgotten the two children she left behind...

When Aisling Conroy's boyfriend Jack is found in the freezing black waters of the river Corrib, the police tell her it was suicide. A surgical resident, she throws herself into study and work, trying to forget--until Jack's sister Maude shows up. Maude suspects foul play, and she is determined to prove it.

Cormac Reilly is the detective assigned with the re-investigation of a seemingly accidental overdose twenty years ago--the overdose of Jack…


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A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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