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Review of Too Close to Breathe

My second Irish read this month is Too Close to Breathe, a debut novel by Olivia Kiernan. If you read my last review (The Darkling Bride), you’ll realize how this novel is quite the opposite style: it’s gritty, dark, and a little disturbing. And I found myself counting down the minutes till I could get back to the story when I should have been working or studying. In other words, this is a fast-paced, intriguing, suspenseful crime novel, and I couldn’t stand to put it down.

Book cover for Too Close to Breathe

Book cover for Too Close to Breathe

Now, I’m not often a reader of crime fiction, and this book was a little outside my normal sphere of reading. But what got me interested about this one was the mystery of it all. I kept turning page after page, wanting to know what happened next.

Our protagonist is crime detective Frankie Sheehan. She’s persistent, quick-witted, and sometimes she goes a little rogue. But coming into the beginning of this story, she’s also recovering from a traumatic incident of being nearly murdered at the scene of a previous investigation. To be a detective, to work on the horrific murder cases that come through her department, Frankie has to be hardened, distanced from her work. But her near-death experience has made her work a little too personal for her taste. She has trouble stepping away from the trauma, having flashbacks in the middle of her work. I think having both sides to her character revealed–the emotional and the rational–shows Frankie as a complicated character, struggling with internal conflict at the same time as trying to catch a killer.

As it turns out, Frankie’s traumatic experience might have more to do with her current case than she realizes . . . But I’ll leave that for you to find out.

The plot of this crime novel includes a string of murders, secret BDSM forums on the Dark Web, and mysterious phone calls to Frankie’s cell. The deeper Frankie gets into the investigation, the closer she gets to the killer, and that might just be a little too close for comfort.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in mysteries or true crime, and I’ll admit there’s a few parts that are a little hard to read if violence makes your stomach turn. Yet there’s something about this book that feels so realistically dark. Except, unlike the inconclusiveness I sometimes feel after watching true crime television shows, Too Close to Breathe has a solid, satisfying ending that makes the twists and turns of the investigation worth it.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this novel for review.

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Review of The Darkling Bride

Lately, I’ve been thinking I should change the title of this blog to “In Love with the British Isles.” I do love England (isn’t it obvious?), of course, but I love so much more! In the past, I’ve tried to narrow down my topics to England, but I’ve decided to turn to Ireland a bit more recently, as a couple of delightful Irish books have come my way for review.

I just finished The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen. My life (like yours, I’m sure) has been busy and complicated, and finding time to read outside of my studies has been challenging. But I’m so glad I’ve had The Darkling Bride to turn to in my spare moments the past couple weeks, needing an escape from the neverending winter of Michigan.

book cover for The Darkling Bride

The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen

First, let me ask, do you like myths, murder mysteries, family secrets, historical fiction, libraries, ghosts, and Irish castles with a side of romance? This fast-paced novel has all of that. With its multiple perspectives and multiple timeframes, you never feel stuck in this book; you’re just excited to read what happens next.

There’s quite a few interesting characters in the book: Carragh Ryan, the archivist from Boston; Aidan Gallagher, the conflicted heir to the Deeprath Castle and estate; Sibéal McKenna, the police detective trying to prove herself in a new department. And these are just the characters in the current timeframe. We also get to time travel back to the 1800s to learn the stories of Jenny Gallagher, whose secrets and tragic end still haunt the castle battlements, and of Aidan’s own parents, who were mysteriously killed when he was just a child.

And of course, we can’t forget the castle itself. This structure comes alive in the novel, with its many additions and renovations from across the centuries; it feels like another character, acting its own will on the people living within the stone walls. I especially loved reading about the library which was built into an ancient chapel. I imagined shelves upon shelves of dusty tomes lining the stained-glass bay windows, containing a millenium of stories—and secrets, as it turns out.

I also appreciated the theme of identity in the novel. Carragh, an Asian-American, was adopted into an Irish-American family living in Boston; she inherits her grandmother’s home in Ireland and is the only one in her family who really wants to hold onto this piece of history. Aidan, on the other hand, struggles to accept his family inheritance, wanting to escape his family identity. It makes for an interesting contrast in the book, providing additional tension to the already tense unfolding of the family mystery.

I would consider this a fun, need-to-escape-int0-a-story-without-having-to-think-too-hard kind of mystery book. I would definitely recommend it if you need a mental escape to an Irish castle with a badass library.  

Thanks to Ballantine and Random House for providing a copy of The Darkling Bride for review.

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