THE SCHOLAR by Dervla McTiernan (Cormac Reilly #2), Book Review

From the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller The Ruin, Dervla McTiernan comes a compulsive new crime thriller featuring DS Cormac Reilly, The Scholar.

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan, ReviewDervla McTiernan, The Scholar Review

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The Scholar Synopsis:

Being brilliant has never been this dangerous …

When Dr Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit and run outside Galway University late one evening, she calls her partner, Detective Cormac Reilly, bringing him first to the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him.

A security card in the dead woman’s pocket identifies her as Carline Darcy, a gifted student and heir apparent to Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics. The multi-billion-dollar company, founded by her grandfather, has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The enquiry into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but as his running of the case comes under scrutiny from the department and his colleagues, he is forced to question his own objectivity. Could his loyalty to Emma have led him to overlook evidence? Has it made him a liability?

(HarperCollins, February 2019)


Despite hearing wonderful things about The Ruin, like so many other great debuts it never did find its way to my reading pile. So when the opportunity arose to read McTiernan’s second novel featuring Detective Cormac Reilly, I jumped at it.

Early on, I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. The writing was simple, the scenes felt disjointed, and where was Reilly? This crime novel is definitely a slow burn and some of the decisions made with regard to policing seemed questionable to me.

As a bigger picture coalesced and McTiernan’s series lead entered focus, I came to appreciate the storytelling approach more. Readers are drip-fed Reilly and Emma’s traumatic backstory through Cormac’s shared confidences with colleagues. The responses of these equally stiff-upper-lip police detectives proved an efficient and interesting means of characterisation.

By the halfway mark I was very much engaged with The Scholar‘s plot, but less so with its characters. Dr Emma Sweeney, in particular, lacked the punch I’d expected from the book synopsis. However, my desire to confirm my early suspicions regarding the culprit, and satisfy myself that karma was delivered to a group of highly unlikable tertiary characters, fueled my sprint to this novel’s conclusion.

While its criminal plot satisfied, The Scholar felt like a missed opportunity to develop series lead characters with great potential. Note though, this title has many ardent fans.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5  —  Overall  3.25

The Scholar is available from:

Amazon | Book Depository | Kobobooks | B&N | Indigo | Booktopia(Aus)

Genre: Crime-Detective, Thriller, Mystery, Drama

About the Author, Dervla McTiernan

Dervla McTiernan was born in County Cork, Ireland to a family of seven. She studied corporate law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and the Law Society of Ireland. She then practiced as a lawyer for twelve years. Following the global financial crisis she moved with her family to Western Australia. She now works for the Mental Health commission there. In 2015 she submitted a story for the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto competition and was shortlisted. This inspired her to complete the novel that would become The Rúin. She lives in Perth with her husband and two children.

This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2019 and the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

* Receiving a copy from the publisher for review did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.