Fresh Blood

Name: Olivia Kiernan

Title of Book: Too Close to Breathe

'Kiernan delivers a powerhouse of a debut'

TOO SOON TO SEE: Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanged in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.

TOO LATE TO HIDE: DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.

TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE: As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.

Kiernan’s debut is delectably dark and insidious. Many of us have a thirst for life. It may disturb you, but there are some who wonder what death is like, how it would feel to enter Death’s embrace and can it be cheated, can one be pulled back before the final step to oblivion is taken? You may think I am talking in riddles, creating obfuscation? Well, you’d be right. There isn’t much I can tell you about Kiernan’s debut without giving something away, so I have to watch my step.

Frankie Sheehan is not as hard-faced as she’d like others to think. There is a part of her that is vulnerable, (which makes her more approachable as a reader), a vulnerability present since she was attacked by a serial killer who is now on trial. Kiernan makes time for the victims in her book. In fact, they are a drama amongst themselves and not simply a plot device to keep the book moving. It was intriguing the way the layers of the victims were peeled away, revealing human beings who had lives, feelings, history and may not have been as innocent as first thought.

There are several twists and turns in this book, with Kiernan’s final reveal being quite a surprise and a neat little twist, something I hadn’t expected, but looking back it was there to see. There are moments of in-depth descriptions which may not be for the feint-hearted, but Kiernan delivers a powerhouse of a debut. I certainly look forward to Sheehan's next case.

You may feel I have been deliberately vague with this review. You will realise why when you read ‘Too Close to Breathe’ and thank me later for my reticence so as not to spoil your entertainment. I will simply sign off with… enjoy!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) ‘Too Close to Breathe’ deals with the dark web and a fascination with cheating death. What was the germ of an idea that led you down such dark alleyways?
I’m not sure I can say it was one single idea, rather an accumulation of ideas or moments of inspiration that made me want to write around these subjects. There are so many stories surrounding the dark web and there’s no way to know for sure which are true or not. Is there such a thing as a red room? Can you hire a hitman as easily as ordering a book? Can you really buy anyone’s identity for a few pounds? I knew very little about the dark web when I began to research it but I realised some of my characters would feel very at home there. The idea of this ‘other’ internet both intrigued and frightened me. And I think none of us can help exploring what frightens us. That’s the lure of crime fiction. And this is what many of my characters are doing, they’re holding up their fear (death) to explore it and maybe, in some way, they think they can control it.
2) You remind your reader often about the ‘victim’ in cases, (even making Sheehan a victim of a crime) and how they can become overlooked. What made you wish to concentrate on this side of the investigation when many followers of crime (fiction or true) usually tend to forget the victims in each police case?
Reading around the subject of criminology and forensic criminal behaviour it seems that in order to understand the killer, we have to understand the victim. Obviously this is the starting point for most murder investigations. But victims often get overlooked in the press or in our own discourse around crime and strangely if they are acknowledged they frequently undergo a harsh kind of scrutiny, judgements are made on their lives that are irrelevant to the crimes inflicted on them. And sometimes it seems as if our sympathies are weighed out unfairly depending on the victim’s life choices. This was probably the thought that made me want to write ‘Too Close to Breathe’. I deliberately chose a female victim for the opening and created a character that might turn a fictional cliché on its head. I chose a female detective for the same reason. It pleases me so much to hear people talk about both Detective Sheehan and Eleanor Costello on equal footing.
3) Will we learn more in future books about Sheehan? You mention her family, but they only have a cameo in this book. Also, is it just camaraderie between Frankie and her colleague, Baz?
The next book, ‘The Killer In Me’, sees DCS Sheehan drawn back to her home of Clontarf so her family have a greater presence in the second book. Also the idea of family and how it shapes a person or how we affect it comes into play. The book delves into an old case of familicide and the long ranging effects it’s had on both victims and the convicted.

With regards to Baz and Frankie, it’s interesting how many people have asked that question. I didn’t want to have a female lead whose role it was to fall in love. It was important to me to show that what was intriguing about Frankie was her skill as a detective. But humans are humans, so maybe only Frankie and Baz can answer that question.
4) Will we see Frankie Sheehan and her colleagues in your next novel?
Yes. I couldn’t wait to return to ‘work’ with Sheehan and her team and believe me in ‘The Killer in Me’ Sheehan has her work cut out. She needs as many of her colleagues by her side as possible but not all are willing to help.
5) In recent years there has been a number of Irish crime writers published. What do you think of this surge in ‘Irish Noir’? Or should it be called ‘Emerald Noir’?
Us Irish, we love a dark story. Many Irish people will tell you that when they phone home, often the first question they’re asked is: ‘You’ll never guess whose died?’ And it is like that. You have to guess. We have a great obsession with death and dying and morbid things, so it isn’t such a leap we’d then write around these subjects. Also, I think communities are still very close in Ireland both geographically and on a personal level. Most people can name all families in quite a substantial radius and know the various tributaries of people that connect them. In that way when some awful crime has been committed to one or a travesty has befallen a neighbour it feels very personal. Maybe because of this, Irish crime writing has a level of intimacy that’s very engaging. A case like the Costello murder would have really taken a prime position of concern for most of the nation.
6) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
I love crime fiction so I’m going to take three novels that are on my to-be-read pile but for whatever reason I’ve not got to them yet. They are: Force of Nature by Jane Harper, Will Dean’s Dark Pines and yes, I’m way behind the party here, but The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.