A prequel novella, “Controlled explosions” introduces readers to Claire McGowan’s Paula Maguire series. When I read that Ken Bruen proclaimed her to be ‘Ireland’s answer to Ruth Rendell, I knew I had to check this series out.
Paula Maguire, the series protagonist is a forensic psychologist who was born in a border town in Northern Ireland. She is the daughter of a Catholic policeman in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and a mother who was suspected to have been ‘taken’ by the IRA.
In “Controlled explosions” we visit Paula when she is in her last year of school. Five years ago, her mother disappeared when Paula was just thirteen. She was rumoured to be a ‘tout‘ (a word used to describe informers in Northern Ireland). Her father, busy with his high stress job, is of little aid to her when she is relentlessly bullied at school. She feels so alone – somehow apart from the other teenagers with their teenage pursuits. We learn of her first crush, and her aspirations for her future. She wants to attend university and get as far away as she can, thus escaping her little Irish border town.
Set in 1998, the novella gives readers a glimpse of Paula’s family life at the same time providing a snapshot of the senseless ‘troubles‘ and how the Irish people were impacted by the years of strife. The “Good Friday Agreement” was just signed, and the Irish were wary of how this will further impact their country and their lives…
I enjoyed the writing and plan to pursue the series. I must ascertain if Ken Bruen’s comparison to Ruth Rendell stands true after all. I imagine that folks who have already read the series would like to go back and read of Paula Maguire as a teenage girl. If, like me, you haven’t yet read the series, you will also enjoy this early glimpse into the life of the series’ protagonist.
I purchased this novella in Kindle format because I was curious about the Paula Maguire series – and because I wanted it to be one of my “Reading Ireland Month” entries.
You can purchase “Controlled Explosions” at the following retail booksellers (it was FREE today when I created these links)
Born in Northern Ireland in 1981, Claire’s debut standalone novel, The Fall, was published in early 2012. She swiftly followed up with The Lost, the first in a devastating news series featuring forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, and Claire soon gained a strong following. The Dead Ground was career defining and led Ken Bruen to proclaim her as ‘Ireland’s answer to Ruth Rendell’. In 2015 she published her debut e-short, Controlled Explosions, in anticipation of the release of The Silent Dead, the third exciting novel in the Paula Maguire series. Now she follows up with A Savage Hunger.
Claire studied in Oxford then lived overseas in France and China. She was the first Director of the Crime Writers’ Association and is now Senior Lecturer in Crime Thriller Writing at City University London. For more information about Claire look at her website ink-stains.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @inkstainsclaire.
She also writes women’s fiction under the name Eva Woods.