Award winning author Brian McGilloway, author of the Ben Devlin series, talks exclusively to The Crime Vault about his novels.
1) Tell us a bit about The Last Crossing and what inspired you to write it?
The Last Crossing was inspired by a news report I read regarding the discovery of one of the Disappeared – a group of people who were kidnapped and killed in Northern Ireland during the darkest years of the violence, and whose bodies were never recovered. I wrote about this before in the Nameless Dead, but a few years back I read about the recovery of one such person where it was rumoured that the three people who had killed him had met for the first time in decades to return to the site of his killing to locate the grave. That journey – both in terms of the return to the site and the journey each had taken in the intervening years – was one I wanted to explore. I tend to write procedurals which look at the consequences of violence on the family, the victim and wider society: in this book, I wanted to look at the consequences of violence on those who perpetrate it. How did they rationalise it to themselves? How did they live with it? How were they changed by what they had done? Ultimately, it’s a book about redemption and forgiveness.
2) Are there any writers who have inspired your work?
I love James Lee Burke’s work, particularly his prose style which is exquisite. In terms of Irish crime writing, John Connolly led the way for a whole generation of crime writers here by showing that the genre was one which we could explore. He’s also massively supportive of other writers. Ian Rankin and Colin Dexter were my gateway reads into crime fiction to begin with and I have a soft spot for both Rebus and Morse. I had the good fortune to meet Ann Cleeves very early in my writing career and her humility, kindness and determination were hugely inspiring for me as a writer, never mind the fact she writes amazing books.
3) What are your top 3 books that you read again and again?
Because I’m a teacher, I tend to revisit the same books year after year with each new class. There are some, though, that I love coming back to myself as a reader. The Great Gatsby is a gorgeous novel and one I love rereading. Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose is another book I love, though don’t revisit quite as often but which I still enjoy very much. I tend towards using wintry conditions in quite a few of my books, so Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is also a book I’ve read more than once and continue to enjoy.
4) Without giving away too much, are you able to give us a taster of your next book? My new book, Blood Ties, came out earlier this year and is a return to Ben Devlin. It focuses on the discovery of the fresh blood of a woman who has been dead for over a decade at the scene of her killer’s murder. It’s set in the run up to the first lockdown and Devlin is dealing with his own father’s illness. My next book is called The Empty Room and is due out next March. It’s a standalone, like the Last Crossing, and focuses on a mother, Dora Condron, whose teenaged daughter has gone missing. It’s inspired by the story of Pandora’s box, and we meet Dora 3 days, 3 months and 3 years after the daughter vanishes as she tries to find the truth and deal with the consequences of that search.
LONGLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON OLD PECULER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2021*
'Poetic, human and gripping... reminded me of Bernard MacLaverty's early work. Yes, it's that good' Ian Rankin
'Moving and powerful, this is an important book, which everyone should read' Ann Cleeves
'The Last Crossing is not only a riveting story about loss and guilt in a fractured society, it is also an
important work. Beautifully written and lingers long in the memory' Steve Cavanagh
Tony, Hugh and Karen thought they'd seen the last of each other thirty years ago. Half a lifetime has passed and memories have been buried. But when they are asked to reunite - to lay ghosts to rest for the good of the future - they all have their own reasons to agree. As they take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland the past is brought into terrible focus - some things are impossible to leave behind.
In The Last Crossing memory is unreliable, truth shifts and slips and the lingering legacy of the Troubles threatens the present once again.
Praise for Brian McGilloway
'... McGilloway brings a forensic and compassionate eye to bear on the post-Troubles settlement in this thoughtful, moving, morally complex book' The Irish Times
'McGilloway's grasp of characterisation is of the first rank, and more than compensates for the familiarity of the scenario here. The author continues to be one of Ireland's most accomplished crime writers' CrimeTime
'[A] superb book... thoughtful and insightful, wrenching and utterly compelling. It says something truly profound and universal about love, loyalty and revenge... If you want to understand Northern Ireland, or any society that has experienced conflict, put it on your list. And the writing is exquisite' Jane Casey
'Unearths individuals truths, unreliable memories and personal mythologies with a complex character-driven story that will leave you breathless until the final page' Gerard Brennan
'As heart-stopping and thrilling as it is exquisitely written and prescient' Claire Allan
'Another extraordinary novel from one of Ireland's crime fiction masters' Adrian McKinty