Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: 'So Say the Fallen' by Stuart Neville

DCI Serena Flanagan of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a working mother who, until now, has placed the demands of her job before her responsibilities to her husband, Alistair, and their two children. She has endured and overcome physical and emotional challenges that left her traumatized. Much to her sorrow, Alistair has been angry with her since violent thugs invaded their home, an incident that still gives him nightmares. He has asked her to switch to a desk job, and let others take their chances chasing down vicious felons. As guilt-ridden as she feels about neglecting her family, she has no intention of giving up the career she loves. In Stuart Neville's "So Say the Fallen," DCI Flanagan risks her professional standing and marriage in order to bring down a cunning criminal.

Serena is assigned to look into an apparently clear-cut suicide, but some aspects of the case raise red flags. In spite of pressure from above to back off, she doggedly persists in her inquiries and repeatedly interviews those who had been close to the deceased. Neville's fast-paced and well-plotted thriller touches on issues of religious faith; the masks that people wear in order to deceive; and the ways in which narcissistic individuals exploit others for their own selfish reasons. Neville's dialogue is stinging and sharp, his plot is well-constructed and fast-paced, and the suspense mounts steadily as Flanagan closes in on a suspect who will do anything to avoid capture.

The cast includes Reverend Peter McKay, a lonely and tortured soul; the alluring Roberta Garrick, whose good-hearted husband, Harry, was gravely injured in a horrific accident; and the aforementioned DCI Flanagan. Serena is impudent to her superiors; uses foul language; and refuses to be deterred when she has made up her mind. Still, it is hard to dislike this tough, insightful, and tenacious detective. Neville is an accomplished author, whose prose is graceful, nuanced, and haunting. Interestingly, he points out that even apparently unrepentant sinners may have a small spark of humanity. "So Say the Fallen" is a compelling thriller that, once started, is difficult to put down.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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