Northern Ireland – The Silent Dead – Clare McGowan

Silent Dead TPB.indd

1980s/1990s: A haunting and thought provoking portrayal of life in Ireland, before and after the Troubles


Northern and Southern Ireland – so near and yet so far apart. A Missing Persons Unit is set up to find people on both sides of the border. This time they are tasked with finding a body – that of Mickey Doyle – a member of the infamous Mayday Five, a group who is suspected of having planted a bomb which killed sixteen people. The group has been in the news a lot recently and tensions are high since they were found not guilty. But now they have seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.

So it would seem that someone is really not happy with the official verdict and is in the process of ensuring that ‘justice’ is served. But the authorities are on to them..

Place and setting

Screen shot 2015-12-15 at 10.46.59
BAllyterrin is fictiona but may be inspired by the author’s home town of Rostrevor. Omagh and Enniskillen are two places noted for events which took place during the Troubles and are referenced in the novel.

Northern Ireland during the troubles. This is not an easy situation in any shape or form and neither is it to read about in fiction. The tensions are palpable and the communities are in pain as they try to come to terms with life on the edge if that is ever possible in such circumstances.

Emotions are raw and brutal. Imagine those who were left with the aftermath of the Mayday five bomb – the victims families. The tension and raw grief of these people is clear, heartbreaking and heartbreaking. Their relationship with the police is understandable if not a sad tragic outcome. Who killed Mickey Doyle and can there ever be a real valid reason?

The Troubles

This is a grim but ultimately realistic and chilling picture of what the Troubles represented on a day to day basis for the ordinary people in a community. The picture painted is complex, well rounded and chilling on so many levels and an eye opener for a sense that by reading this, you have peered between the headlines you may have seen and read before.

The idea that this community, these people are living with the consequences of that day, that everyone knows someone involved with the disaster, and that the suspected killers have been living within the community until their disappearance….is very cleverly evoked via each page.

How does a community move on? Is it possible to move on from evil?

The Troubles and the Good Friday agreement are tough  subjects to faceand even many years later, the ripples of that are still being felt.

A complex and raw setting on so many levels.


Despite this being the third in a series, it works well as a standalone although Paula is easier to understand if you have read the earlier novels.

She has had a very troubled life and her mother went missing when she was younger which has understandably left a huge impact on her. In this novel, she is pregnant and  doesn’t know who the father is which gives her another set of issues to deal with. On a professional level, things take a really dramatic turn too so there were plenty of emotions and huge gasps made during the reading of this novel? I’d never read or indeed imagined a heavily pregnant woman trying to carryout an investigation  – you have to imagine the gritty determination of such a woman!

Although this is a difficult subject to read about – the rights and wrongs and the grey space in between, Claire really does set things out well and clearly to showcase the situation and really make you think. Who is right or wrong and can you honestly say that in the same situations you wouldn’t feel or react the same?

It’s a complex story but very accessible and very very powerful. This book makes you think – of everything you think you know and challenges you to reconsider and stand in someone else’s shoes. And there’s not many books that do that.

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