The LivingThe Living opens with a tense interrogation packed full of promise with a question of “the gun” left hanging at the end of the first gripping chapter.

Cate has just started working for a small Dublin publishing house. She lives in her uncle’s spare flat and trundles along through her simple existence with little excitement. Nights out with old university mates and choir rehearsal are the sum total of her limited social life. Then a new tenor from England arrives in town. The tall, dark, curly haired Mathew. Cullinan doesn’t use the word “mysterious” but you get the gist.
The stranger’s arrival coincides with Cate’s work on a new publication which promises revelations from the early 1970s covert talks between the Provisional IRA and the British Government. In reality, so many books, documentaries and articles have already been written on this very subject, that the only true secrets yet to be revealed are quite literally, where are the rest of the bodies buried and who done it? This is one of the major problems with The Living, its irritating naivety and inherent clichés are a constant.

The author does manage to create an inkling of suspense which carries the reader to the end. There is a trip to Belfast for the choir to perform in a hall packed full of dignitaries when all is revealed. Just how an intelligent, university educated academic could be so gullible as to fall for the secretive Mathew and not hear the alarm bells after their second date, is an enigma.

A disappointing debut from Cullinan but one which may appeal to those who like their thrillers a bit less opaque.

WLTB LogoReviewed by Gerard O’Hare from We Love This Books/9781782391678/£12.99