3 out of 4 stars
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In August of 2012, a young boy is remanded in prison, and on his very first day, an attempt by two other inmates to rape him leads to his death. In the early hours of 13th August, 2018, a judge is found murdered in his home, a police truncheon sticking out of his rectum. The circumstances of the murder bring into light the depraved sexual activities of a secret club of wealthy people. Within ten days, three other murders occur with the same modus operandi. After each murder, a blog post detailing and justifying the murder is uploaded to the Dark Web by the killer. The officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, led by Detective Chief Inspector Jim Sheehan, must work tirelessly to connect all the dots and stop the killer before he strikes his final blow.
The Dark Web Murders by Brian O’Hare is a fictional mystery novel and the fourth book in the Inspector Sheehan Mysteries. It is set in Northern Ireland and was published by Crimson Cloak Publishing in 2019. Despite being an instalment in a series of books, it can comfortably be read without having to read the previous books. However, it is better appreciated if the reader has read one or more of its predecessors.
As is typical of Inspector Sheehan mysteries, the novel emphasises team work. Every member of the team is an active participant in working the case, although it ultimately falls to DCI Sheehan, Sergeant Denise Stewart and Detective McBride to play the most important roles in solving the case. It also attempts to comment on social issues, such as how women who have dangerous jobs are perceived, transgender issues and unconscious biases. However, Sheehan’s reputation—his confidence, kindness, wittiness and attention to details—is better portrayed in this book than it has previously been portrayed.
As a reader who enjoyed an earlier book by the author, I have to say that I found this book to be slightly difficult to read. Although the insight into the Dark Web and the idea of the activities of the club are quite interesting, it would seem that the book generally tries too hard to give too many details. In addition, there are times when the narration feels strained. Moreover, the killer is pretty easy to guess, and the climax is not described as intensely as necessary. It certainly does not help that there are a number of inconsistencies, and this is what I disliked most about the book. For instance, it is McCullough who suggests to McBride in Chapter 7 that they ask suspects about details of the house where they claimed to have been at the time of the murder. Although there is no indication that this suggestion was passed on to any other team member, it is Allen who in Chapter 10 ends up asking a suspect about those details just a few hours after McCullough’s suggestion. The following day, it is McCullough who reports at the team briefing in Chapter 13 that suspects could not give those details. Again, in Chapter 29, Sheehan makes it clear at the start of the team briefing that he is unaware of the information Larkin has for them concerning the safe, but he later talks about information concerning the safe which Larkin gave him before the meeting.
However, what I appreciate the most about the book is that the author took into consideration past reviews. In my review of the second book in the series, The 11:05 Murders, I noted that there was no extra information in that book as to abbreviations and events peculiar to the setting. This was a problem because Northern Ireland is not a setting that many readers are familiar with. In The Dark Web Murders, the author provides a very useful glossary for easy reference at the beginning of the book.
I do not doubt that the book is professionally edited, although it has a few typos. An example is in Chapter 13 where Allen is at one point referred to as Allan, and another instance is in Chapter 36 where “taking” is written instead of “talking.” Profanity is used severally as well. The first instance of profanity is the use of "f**k" in the prologue, and the first instance of borderline profanity is the word “feck” in Chapter 2.
In all, I rate The Dark Web Murders 3 out of 4 stars. I cannot rate it 4 stars because of the problems I have pointed out above, but I do not rate it less than 3 because it is still a reasonably good read which I would recommend to lovers of mystery. Persons who cannot stand mental pictures of a gruesome nature or of sexual depravity are not encouraged to read this book.
The Dark Web Murders
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