3 out of 4 stars
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The 11:05 Murders by Brian O’Hare is a well paced murder mystery. It is the second in a series featuring the venerable Inspector Sheehan of the Strandtown Police Station in Belfast Ireland. Sheehan and his capable team of detectives must follow a maze of leads to catch a serial killer.
The novel opens with a flashback,the importance of which is revealed as the plot proceeds. It then moves to the present day and the introduction of WD Sergeant Denise Stewart, the newest detective to Sheehan’s team. It soon becomes apparent that her promotion and transfer to this station is due to her part in the take-down of a corrupt detective at her last posting. It is up to Sheehan to ensure that Stewart is welcomed to his team without any clouds of mistrust surrounding her. The team is soon put to the test as they are plunged into the investigation of a brutal murder which soon becomes a series of murders, all occurring at 11:05 - hence the title of the novel. WD Stewart and her new partner Detective Tom Allen become further embroiled with a series of physical attacks on Tom, which seem to be centered on Denise and her murky past. As they struggle to find this potential stalker, they and the rest of the team must also try to follow an increasingly tangled web of leads to end the 11:05 killings. As the team struggles to eliminate suspects, Denise juggles calls from a secret informer who will only help her find the killer, and the often overly helpful Crown Prosecutor Robert Turner who is as focused on Denise as he is on the case.
Will Stewart become a trusted part of the team? Why is Prosecutor Turner so involved in this case? Will Tom be able to maintain a professional relationship with the often prickly Denise? How will Sheehan rally his troops together to find the link between a widening circle of potential suspects and events? And most importantly, who is this violent twisted killer, and can the team stop him or her in time to save further victims?
O’Hare’s novel is cleverly plotted, leaving the reader guessing and rethinking the killer’s identity right to the end. His characters and their individual quirks are well developed and enable the reader to have a true interest in each of them. Sheehan’s sciatic hip, Detective McNeill’s stutter, Allen’s less than stellar love life, and Stewart’s drive to overcome her past all entice the reader to become a part of their lives. When Forensic Pathologist James Fitzpatrick lectures Inspector Sheehan we groan along with him as we urge Fitzpatrick to get to the point. O’Hare makes his characters come to life, and we cheer each of them on to success. The suspense builds as time is running out for the next potential victim, and it becomes apparent that the opening flashback is integral to stopping this killer. O’Hare keeps the reader guessing to the end, with each new discovery leading to the final climax, and the curious motive behind these crimes.
For murder mystery fans there is much to enjoy in this novel. The plot is skilfully written, and the outcome not too easily predicted. The pace is fast enough to keep the reader interested, with enough red herrings along the way to deceive, but not detract from the plot. Characters are not just cardboard cut-outs, but real people who you want to succeed.
However, there are moments when O’Hare’s scene descriptions read more like travel guides than a murder mystery. Some dialogue is a little stilted, and not quite natural enough. There are some grammatical errors, which really don’t belong in a published work, which better editing should resolve. Overall though this novel is a very satisfying murder mystery, where O’Hare even pays homage to Doyle’s great literary detective Sherlock Holmes.
For mystery fans O’Hare’s novel is a must read. It allows readers to form bonds with the characters, and to become armchair detectives trying to find the killer themselves. However, because of the aforementioned drawbacks, this novel rates 3 out of 4 stars. O’Hares’s novel keeps the reader guessing right to the end, and most importantly, leaves the reader to ask, “When is the next installment?” And that is what most authors would certainly wish for!
The 11.05 Murders
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