Cops and lawyers are a mainstay of crime fiction, so when readers discover that Dervla McTeirnan’s new novella, The Sisters – released exclusively as an Audible Original – revolves around siblings in these professions, it is not a shock. Since this is an Ireland-set prequel to McTeirnan’s award-winning novels, technically Carrie Ryan is a member of the Gardaí, while her sister Aifric is a barrister.
A statement about these professions made during the course of this short work is so powerful, it will resonant and linger with readers for far longer.
Carrie says to her sister – cop to lawyer – “You can’t care and I have to.”
Wow! If that isn’t the perfect thumbnail distillation of these two jobs, I don’t know what is. This puts into perspective the immediate tension at the core of these roles that on the surface seem as though they should mesh organically. Now, of course, in the context of this novella, things are a bit more complicated – aren’t they always – but this is a concept that warrants remembering, not only in future crime fiction reading, but moving forward with life in general.
As a novella, The Sisters is a brief but important story documenting the evolution of the Carrie Ryan character. Carrie is a secondary character in both The Ruin and The Scholar, the two currently released novels in Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series. Since it seems that Carrie is going to become more of a focus in the next novel, much like how Tana French deals with her Dublin Murder Squad from book to book, it is nice that readers get a deeper sense of this backstory.
The plot revolves around a case of a man accused of murdering his girlfriend after an argument in a local bar. Aifric is assigned to defend the man after her more senior colleague – who happens to be a raging alcoholic – dropped the ball on the case. Aifric immediately notices some inconsistencies and truly comes to believe that her client is innocent. Since she lives with her sister, Carrie, it is no surprise that they discuss the case and in fact, Carrie looks at the evidence herself and finds that maybe the Gardaí officer in charge did actually overlooked something. Seeing this as a way to break through the “old boys” culture that permeate her chosen occupation, Carrie steps out of line to question witnesses on the side.
The reason these two sisters feel so passionately about making sure an innocent person is not held responsible and the fall-out from both of their actions in this case are moments that will define their characters moving forward in the series. Of course, because this is a novella, things are resolved rather quickly, but the ramifications will help to explain where Carrie Ryan is at the start of The Ruin, which opens up ten years after this incident. The novella is also a wonderful example of how women in typically male-dominated careers are under-estimated.
If you are a fan of Dervla McTiernan’s novels, do yourself a favor and listen to this prequel. If you haven’t read McTiernan yet, you can start with The Sisters and then follow it up with the two novels. Either way, trust me when I say you have to read this woman’s work.