After Detective Finnegan Beck is demoted and forced to work in the quiet town of Cross Beg, his intention is to keep his head down until he can return to Dublin. However, after a teen girl is found dead, he’s thrust into a complicated investigation, with his experience pulling him to suspect the case is more complicated than it first appears. As he wades through closely guarded secrets and the deep social relationships that come with small town life, he feels on the cusp of cracking the case— and then there’s another murder.
Author Michael Scanlon has written a powerful mystery wrapped in a mystery. The first mystery resides in Finnegan Beck himself. He’s a complicated, sometimes gruff, man with plenty of shortcomings. As the book opens, it’s understood that he’s been demoted, but with no immediate explanation as to why. Withholding this information is a brilliant move, casting Beck as potentially unreliable. Who is he? What happened? And what is he hiding? Scanlon breaks with this information when it can move the story, expertly revealing Beck’s layers as the case goes deeper.
One of the most common tropes in thrillers is the brilliant yet tormented detective and, while Beck is both brilliant and tormented, Scanlon flips this on its head. Beck is brilliant despite his shortcomings, not because of them. There’s an underlying organization to his work and he actively shows remorse for his mistakes and attempts to navigate them in a healthy way. He just isn’t always successful, and watching these active failures creates a more interesting, powerful character. Yes, he might be erratic, but he knows what he’s doing.
However, it’s the mystery of the murder that pushes the book into remarkable territory. Scanlon knows how to weave police procedure and investigation into a compelling narrative. Part of this comes from providing Beck with a smart, curious partner in Claire Somers. She balances and grounds the pair in the intricate world of Cross Beg, and it’s thrilling reading about the two as they progress as a team on a case where everything seems to be working against them.
The murders, viewed from the perspective of the killer, are graphic. The descriptions are vivid and, honestly, repulsive. For some, they might be too extreme, but it’s a matter of reader comfortability, which makes sense for this type of novel. It isn’t gratuitous and provides an extreme sense of urgency for Beck and Somers to unmask the killer. For this reason, the final act, as everything comes together perfectly, is as riveting as it is surprising.
Where She Lies is a stunning debut with plenty of thrilling twists.
Title: Where She Lies
Author: Michael Scanlon
Publication Date: February 8, 2019
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.