Gallows Lane by Brian McGilloway

Gallows LaneThe odd thing about doing this blog is that some milestones sneak up on you – I only noticed the other day that I was about to hit 500 posts. So, for that celebration, I’ve planned… nothing special at all. Just another review – because, after all, that’s the point of the blog.

Gallows Lane in Donegal took its name from the destination of the criminals who were led to their final fate down it. It’s also the location of a stash of weapons and drugs that is the second such find by two ambitious members of the Garda. But there are questions about the find. But before he can follow up on his suspicions, Detective Inspector Benedict Devlin is called to the scene of a murder – a savage beating of a young woman in a half-built house on a building development.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Kerr has returned to the area. Jimmy has been in prison since being caught as the getaway driver in a post office robbery. Having found God in prison – not sure what God was doing in prison – Jimmy is looking for his fellow robbers, claiming that he wants to forgive them. But soon one robber is dead – and he’s not the last to die…

In some ways, this is a very appropriate book for the 500th post – the whole point of the blog, as explained 499 posts ago, was to find traditional-style mysteries in modern crime fiction. This seems an ideal candidate – a modern police-procedural with an unknown killer or killers who is or are revealed in the closing chapters.

In modern fiction, there is much more of a demand than in the Golden Age for character development – especially in the best-selling “mystery” genre. What this often can lead to is a weakening of the mystery element. This can happen in a few ways – maybe the killer is too obvious, maybe the killer is a character introduced too late in the narrative for the reader who wants to play along and, most often, the game of working out the identity of the murderer is simply a guessing game, rather than a logic problem.

Oh, this book? It’s a great read – the second in the Devlin series, following Borderlands, a book that I enjoyed a lot. That one had hints of the classic mystery set-up, but didn’t really clue it properly. That was the only flaw in what was otherwise an engrossing read. And this is basically the same with the second book in the series.

You have a strong setting, a strong set of characters. I’m not sure, given the developments in Devlin’s health in this book, what sort of a future the lead character has. I hope it’s a long one, as he’s an interesting protagonist – a religious man with a conscience and a family, someone who is not a natural team player in a job that requires him to be one. There’s an unsavoury cast of characters but while there is a grimness to the crimes, the narrative doesn’t dwell on them, something that I always welcome in a crime novel. But the mystery, while being a whodunit, isn’t really one that the reader can play along with. The plot is quite twisty-turny until the villain/villains is/are revealed, but it’s a story where you are reading how the hero catches the villain. It doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the story. It’s a page-turner, an entertaining and gripping read and comes Highly Recommended. Just don’t expect a fair-play mystery.

I bought this book as an ebook for a few quid.

Right – roll on the next 500 posts…


  1. After reading this review, I read your review on Borderlands. I have decided to read Borderlands first which I have already bought.


    • Many thanks, Martin. Sorry for the lack of reviews of your work lately but I’ve misplaced my copy of Eve of Destruction. We’re moving again soon so normal service will be resumed when I unpack.


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