So Say The Fallen – Stuart Neville – Audible Book Review by Pat V.
Post-Troubles Northern Ireland has given birth to a number of hugely talented crime writers, the most notable being Adrian McKinty, Brian McGilloway, and Stuart Neville, whose book “So Say the Fallen” was published earlier this month. It is his second novel featuring an investigation by DCI Serena Flanagan and begins with the report of the apparent suicide of a local disabled businessman; Harry Garrick. It seems at first to be a routine case but when Flanagan becomes aware of the close relationship between Garrick’s widow and the local minister, Rev. Peter McKay, she begins to have doubts and soon realises that things are not as straightforward as they seem.
Neville is probably best known for his excellent first novel, “The Twelve”, a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic, which featured ex-IRA hit-man, Gerry Fegan, haunted by the ghosts of the twelve people he had killed. It also introduced DI Jack Lennon who appeared in three of Neville’s later books. In 2015, in “Those We Left Behind”, DCI Flanagan, who had appeared as a minor character in “The Final Silence”, takes centre stage. She is asked to deal with the release from detention of Ciaran Devine, who as a 12-year-old confessed to the brutal murder of his foster father. Flanagan, who had taken Ciaran’s confession at the time of the crime, feels forced to reopen the investigation, setting in motion a chain of events that endangers her life and that of her family.
The effects of the earlier case are still evident at the start of “So Say the Fallen” and Flanagan is faced with not only a case which seems to be based largely on gut feeling rather than concrete evidence, but also with the resentment of her family whom she had put in danger. From the start of the novel it is clear who the guilty parties are and Neville’s focus is more on the corrosive effect of crime than creating the suspense of a who-done-it.
It is unfortunate that the publication of the novel follows so soon after the remarkable tv dramatisation of “The Secret” starring James Nesbitt and Genevieve O’Reilly (based on the true-life murders committed by Hazel Stewart and Pastor Colin Howell) as it is inevitable that a comparison will be made. While some details differ there are great similarities between the two stories. Nevertheless, fans of Neville will certainly enjoy the book though newcomers would be advised to begin with one of his earlier novels, all available from Audible.
There is an unrelieved grimness in the world Neville describes, lacking any of the humour that lightens the Northern Ireland of Adrian McKinty’s books. It is not helped here by the monotonous tone of the reader, Deirdre O’Connell, whose attempt at a Northern accent is brash and grating and whose Spanish accent is comic for all the wrong reasons. Neville’s writing is always original and engaging but “So Say the Fallen” does not rate among his best books.
This version is available from audible.co.uk and lasts 10h 32 mins