Irish novelist could become the next big name in the thriller genre

"The Murder Rule" by Dervla McTiernan (William Morrow, 292 pages, $27.99).

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"The Murder Rule" by Dervla McTiernan (William Morrow, 292 pages, $27.99).

In 1994 I began interviewing authors on the radio. I have had a blast talking to numerous unknown writers who were just starting out, then watching as a select few of them have become best-selling authors. Most of them never did become famous, but dozens have done so.

Here’s a sampling of novelists I have interviewed before they became marquee names: Michael Connelly, Kate Atkinson, Robert Crais, Laura Lippman, Don Winslow, Lisa Scottoline, Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Adrian McKinty, David Baldacci, Brad Thor, and the late Vince Flynn.

Here’s another name that isn’t well known yet, but I predict it will become so: Dervla McTiernan. Her novel “The Murder Rule” came out Tuesday and her publisher just sent her over here on a brief United States tour. McTiernan is Irish and lives in Perth, Australia where she has already topped the bestseller lists. She’s the real deal.

Like Lisa Scottoline, McTiernan’s original career was that of an attorney, or a solicitor as they would say over there. During an economic downturn she and her family moved to Australia. In 2014 she decided to try her hand at writing a book. Her first novel was published in 2018.

This new mystery is so tasty. It takes place primarily in Virginia and if readers didn’t know the author isn’t an American they would probably never guess that. Lee Child has that same ability. If you don’t realize Child is English you could never imagine his Jack Reacher series wasn’t written by an American.

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McTiernan is a fiendishly wicked plotter. On the cover of “The Murder Rule” there’s a caption which states “No one is innocent in this story.” That sounds like a spoiler, right? It isn’t. As the novel opens a young woman is preparing to travel from Maine to Virginia. Hannah Rokeby is a law student and she’s going to transfer to the University of Virginia.

She’s leaving her mother behind in Maine. Her mother is not well. Even so, Hannah feels a compulsion to go to Charlottesville to try to become involved with the Innocence Project. Hannah’s desire to do this was instigated when she found her mother’s diary.

The Innocence Project is an organization that identifies people who have received death sentences that could have been unjust. They work to have capital offenses reexamined - if they can ascertain a convict was innocent they will try to have a death sentence commuted.

I’m being careful about what I reveal here about this psychological thriller. I don’t want to ruin things for readers. Let me just say that Hannah wants to attempt to meet a convict her mother knew as a young man during that long ago summer in Maine which she detailed in her diary.

Whenever I read a truly fabulous story then interview the author I often get the sense a particular writer could soon become the recipient of a literary lightning strike. McTiernan is now represented by the agent Shane Salerno at the Story Factory. Salerno has a discerning eye for talent and a gift for promotion. The sky’s the limit for Dervla McTiernan.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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