The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan – book review

Cover The Good Turn

With The Good Turn, award-winning author Dervla McTiernan demonstrates once more her considerable skills as story-teller and writer. As in her two previous books, The RĂșin and The Scholar (reviewed here), characters Detective Cormac Reilly and Garda Peter Fisher encounter crime and police corruption. Important aspects of their personal lives emerge to intrigue the reader. The Good Turn also features an apparently unrelated murder, which is eventually resolved.

Dervla McTiernan, born in Ireland, worked as a corporate lawyer for twelve years. She, her husband and young children immigrated to Perth Western Australia after the Global Financial Crisis. She began writing and is now an internationally acclaimed author.

author Dervla Mctiernan

About The Good Turn

The reported abduction of a young girl in Galway, Ireland, creates the trigger event for the novel. But the initial investigation soon ends in a major disaster. As a result, Detective Cormac Reilly finds himself suspended from duty. Banished from Galway, Garda Peter Fisher is forced to work with his estranged father at the police station in the seaside village of Roundstone.

I couldn’t help wondering how Reilly and Fisher would work together under those circumstances. But, of course they do. In this book, Fisher rather than O’Reilly takes the leading role.

As well as the abduction, the plot includes serious police corruption, murder and the mystery of another little girl’s refusal to talk. Dysfunctional family relationships, intergenerational conflict, romantic liaisons and odd friendships create further intrigue. A child and a much loved grandmother whose condition deteriorates dramatically also have their place in the story.

McTiernan manages, within the confines of tight plotting, to tangle these many threads in unexpected ways. This results in a gripping police procedural and crime novel. By the end, she ties all the strands together, and the ending leaves the reader satisfied. Personal relationships, left in the air, provide plenty of scope for another book in this series.


Whether she describes a bachelor flat recently abandoned by a lover or an eerie snow-bound village, the author creates places the reader can feel and smell. They provoke sadness, loneliness, fear, abandonment.

image Roundstone

She also captures small, telling details. For example, a child dressed as a witch and another as a Disney princess carrying plastic pumpkins denote Halloween.

McTiernan describes things we didn’t know we needed to know, for example how a Hyundai i30 Estate squad car could be most unfit-for-purpose.

With the exception of the livery and lights it was exactly the same model sold of forecourts across Ireland. Peter cursed the shortsightedness of the pen-pushers who continuously underfunded the gardai while expecting more and more as his tyres slipped on the gravel and mud and his engine whined.


While Cormac Reilly featured in The RĂșin and The Scholar, it seems to be Peter Fisher’s turn to star in The Good Turn. Not that Cormac Reilly is absent, but rather somewhat backgrounded.

The main characters are complex, and the supporting cast interesting. What they say, speech patterns, mannerisms, and physical description are all important. Occasionally, we learn about characters through delightful passages of free indirect speech. (Think Jane Austen for another example.)

Again, small details add special appeal. A neighbor ‘in workman’s boots and paint-spattered pants’. ‘The girl behind the counter was flipping through a magazine. She didn’t look up’. Here’s the description of Peter’s grandmother the first time we meet her:

Maggie took a sip from her tea, put the mug back down. She made no move to eat; the biscuit sat untouched on her plate. Her hands were thinner than he remembered, and her cheekbones more prominent. Was she eating enough?


The Good Turn exhibits in abundance all the requirements of police procedural/crime novels. Dervla McTiernan also combines the elements of her genre with seriously good writing.

Recommendations for The Good Turn

The Good Turn satisfies on many levels, and I highly recommend it. A good choice for a book club, it can be enjoyed equally by those to like a meaty police procedural or a crime novel. Characters and relationships are pleasing. Dervla McTeirnant’s skills as a writer are evident on every page.

DETAILS the Good Turn

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2021

Australian Women Writers challenge

This review is part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2021.


7 replies on “The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan – book review”

  1. Whilst crime novels are not on my top list of books to read, i think you may have tempted me Maureen. Will suggest it to my Book Club – i know they will all say something like – Gee Whizz Liz – you are suggesting a crime novel!!

    1. It’s good to read genres outside one’s usual reading list, Elizabeth B. They can some times be really interesting. I’ve recently discovered magical realism, a genre that I thought I’d hate, but found enthralling. I’ll lend you my copy of The Good Turn if you like?

  2. Great reveiw Maureen. I loved the little details that you highlighted. I read this book in January as I had become a fan after reading the first

    1. Thank you, Maureen. I think McTiernan’s writing is terrific, and wish she’d think about writing a more mainstream novel – a literary novel, actually. We will wait and see.

  3. I also found Dervla McTiernan’s novels a great read,.Maureen.When shared in a book club, it was rather interesting to hear a wide range of reviews.

    I can highly recommend an excellent magical realism novel, Siddon Rock, by Glenda Guest.

    1. Hi, Susan. I’m really looking forward to hearing comments from my new book club when they agree to read this book – way outside their usual reading! Thanks for the recommendation for the Glenda Guest book. I’ll add it to my reading pile.

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