PROTAGONIST: Inspector Benedict Devlin
SERIES: #3 of 3
It’s hard to imagine that there might be gold in Ireland, but the fact that a man named Ted Coyle found a nugget in the area outside Donegal has sparked a modern-day gold rush. At the same time, a local company owned by John Weston is opening a gold mine. Their figures indicate that the vein is a rich one; profitability is sky high. The opening of the mine is attended by a US senator, Cathal Hagan, who is an old friend of Weston’s father. The ceremony is marred by an attack on the senator; a local environmentalist shoots at him, despite the efforts of the local police to protect Hagan.
The police protection unit was headed by Inspector Benedict Devlin, and it turns out that the shooter is the brother of one of Ben’s old college chums, Fearghel Bradley. Leon Bradley turns out to be a bit more innocent than he first appears; however, his actions in attempting to disrupt the opening ultimately lead to his own death. Why would anyone feel a need to murder Leon? He is basically an innocent who got carried away by his causes. There’s more at stake than the gold mine; Devlin soon finds a connection to illegal immigration that could destroy some very powerful people. And a bog body is unearthed at the site of the gold mine, which leads to a reawakening of Ben’s relationship with Fearghel.
BLEED A RIVER DEEP is the third in the Ben Devlin series, and McGilloway does an excellent job of expanding the development of his protagonist. Devlin makes several bone-headed blunders during the investigation and in his work in general; he is called to task by his superior, Superintendent Harry Patterson, who makes no secret of the fact that he despises Devlin. Patterson seems poised at every moment to indict Ben of wrongdoing and get him removed from the job. This was one area of the book that I found inconsistent. Through much of the narrative, Patterson is, as Devlin states, a real “prick”. As the book winds down, he shows Devlin much more respect and is a lot more tolerant towards him. Part of that is due to self interest; but it didn’t feel entirely credible to see the change in Patterson’s behavior.
Devlin shows some real heart as he unravels the illegal immigration situation. In some ways, he is an ordinary man. He values his home life—the scenes with his wife and children are intimate and touching. In crime fiction, it’s rare to see that kind of balance in a detective’s life.
The plot is fairly ordinary. It was hard to relate to a group of people living in a flourishing economy (at the time of the book) who would dash into a gold rush, based on one person finding one nugget. There’s not a lot of action in the book; the real pleasure of it is found in the character of Ben Devlin, a moral man in an immoral world.