BOOK REVIEW - Blood Relations by J. Woollcott
by J. Woollcott
September 18 - October 13, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
Belfast, Northern Ireland: early spring 2017. Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride and his partner Detective Sergeant Billy Lamont are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career with the Police Service of Northern Ireland was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past, or his present?
And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?
Is it one of Patrick Mullan’s own family, all of them hiding a history of abuse and lies? Or a vengeful crime boss and his psychopathic new employee? Or could it be a recently released prisoner desperate to protect his family and flee the country?
Ryan and Billy once again face a complex investigation with wit and intelligence, all set in Belfast and the richly atmospheric countryside around it.
Blood Relations is the second in the DS Ryan McBride series. In this book we are transported to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and its Spring 2017. Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride and his partner Billy Lamont are called to Patrick’s desolate country home to investigate.
As they investigate, they discover a man whose career was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Leaving investigators wondering who hates this man enough to kill him twice. Add to the mystery the question of whether the killer is from his past or present, we have one intriguing who done it.
I was intrigued by the premise of this book from the start. I enjoy a good police procedural set in Ireland’s beautiful countryside. This book did not disappoint. I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and reading this book solidified that I really need to visit. The author does an excellent job of world building. The descriptions are rich and full of detail. I also enjoy the cultural aspects. The characters are well developed and play well off one another. I did not see the final twist coming and was blown away by who the killer was. I was convinced I knew who did it.
I look forward to reading more from this series and seeing how the next adventure unfolds for Ryan and Billy. I’m also excited to see how the characters continue to develop over time.
Overall Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Read an excerpt:
Monday, APRIL 24, 2017
Mervyn waited to see the effect of his words and, satisfied that he had their full attention, he continued.
“To clarify. The blow to the head could have proved deadly if a bleed had occurred, and I’ll be able to tell you more later, but that’s not what killed him.”
He pointed at the blue stoneware lamp base lying on the floor beside the bed. Its white shade, now crumpled and blood-soaked, lay in the corner.
“I’m thinking the intruder picked up that lamp and bashed our victim on the head. A nasty blow. Later, the assailant, possibly realising that he had not killed Mullan, stabbed him in the chest, all over the belly, and one shallow thrust in the side there. Then the throat, in the carotid. Bit frenzied actually, seems to me, the roughness of it, the tearing. The blood loss would have been massive and irreversible. I say that only because Mullan was older and likely had a heart condition.”
“How can you tell?”
“An educated guess. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if we come upon some kind of blood thinners in the medicine cabinet. Warfarin, probably.” Mervyn then addressed a white-clad techie dusting for prints by the wall. “Have you found anything at all in this room? And did you check the bathroom cabinet yet?”
The man stood, removed his mask and shook his head. “No, but I found a small bloody mark on the bathroom floor in the corner under the shower curtain. It looks like a heelprint. I think the killer missed it. Everywhere else, wiped on most surfaces anyway. Used towels and took them away I assume.”
“Wiped?” Ryan did a slow three-sixty of the room.
“Not perfect, but enough to mess the scene. Didn’t care about the mess, just removal of any evidence, fingerprints etc. Anyway,” Mervyn continued. “As I said, the killer, as far as I can tell, bashed Mullan on the head, assumed he was dead, decided to check the place out. Perhaps picked up some items, went walkabout, came back a while later, realised they hadn’t quite killed him, picked up that knife there–it’s Mullan’s, his initials are on the handle, and proceeded to stab the bejesus out of him. Although at this point I can only assume it’s the murder weapon. Break-in gone wrong maybe?”
“Right then. Thanks Mervyn. And since you’re well on your way to solving the case and all, shall I just pop over later and perform the post-mortem for you?”
“Lordy, Ryan. I was just trying to help. You’re such a touchy boy.”
Ryan ignored him. “And no prints anywhere?”
“Apparently not on any surfaces we’ve checked so far. We’ll need to access family and friends, anyone who might have been normally in the room. Get some shoe prints, too, of course.” He nodded at the bathroom, “If that turns out to be a heel.”
“Okay.” Ryan had a final look around, followed Billy to the landing, and stood with him at the bannister. “Mervyn assumed the knife was just lying around, but what if he kept it by his bed for protection?”
“Protection from who?”
“I don’t know. Let’s go talk to the cleaning lady.”
“We can assume for now that the front door was the site of ingress,” Billy said.
“Means place of entry, Ryan. Keep up.”
“I know what it means, Billy, I’ve just never heard you use that particular word in a sentence before,” Ryan said, heading down.
“So facetious,” Billy replied, clattering behind.
Mrs. Reynolds, the Mullan’s’ cleaner, sat at a well-worn farmhouse table in the kitchen. Behind her, a picture window faced the rear garden, a large, grey-green rectangle of patchy mixed grass and weeds. A copse of thin pines quivered in a gusty wind at the back. Grey clouds huddled together and spat fat drops of rain against the glass. That same wind pushed through the windows and produced an occasional desolate, high-pitched keening. The kitchen was warm. Someone had lit the cooking range. Ryan noted scuff marks on the floor and a trace of black powder here and there. The room had been processed, things were in motion. DS Calvert had indeed started the investigation before he’d left.
Mrs. Reynolds sat with a mug of tea cooling in front of her. A formidable woman, square jawed and big boned, she wore a fraying, full-coverage linen apron, washed to a light shade of parchment. Her face matched the apron in texture and colour. She cut a dowdy figure, except for a large pink shower cap pulled down firmly over her hair.
A young policewoman washed dishes in the sink.
“Sir?” The constable looked from Billy to Ryan while she dried her hands.
“Thanks, Constable,” Ryan squinted at her badge, “Evans. No need to stay, I think.”
She hurried out, and Billy rubbed his hands together. “Finally, a bit of heat. Here, Missus, can I warm up that tea for you? Ryan, you want a cup?”
“Thanks Billy, wouldn’t say no.” Anything to shake the chill from his bones. He sat down across from Mrs. Reynolds.
“Okay, love? How’re you doing?”
“As well as––you know.” She glanced over at Billy, who was fussing with the kettle. “Aye, make a fresh pot, will you, son? And put a couple of extra teabags in it. The cup that wee lassie made was weak as water.”
“Right you are, nice strong cuppa coming up.”
Ryan smiled briefly, a woman after Billy’s heart. Mrs. Reynolds seemed to notice Ryan’s expression.
“Oh, I completely forgot about this. Won’t be needing it now I suppose.”
She pulled off the shower cap, revealing tight grey curls lined up with military precision down the middle and both sides of her head. Ryan studied her hair, impressed despite himself. Mrs. Reynolds favoured him with a coy smile.
“My daughter, Francine, does my hair.” She patted her curls. “She’s a hairdresser over in Antrim there. She’s a waiting list for appointments as long as yer arm.”
“Yes,” Ryan said. “That’s a lovely hairdo you have there. Very neat.”
She beamed. “If yer wife or yer mam want an appointment, I’m sure I could…”
She was not to be dissuaded. He eventually handed her his card and she scribbled her home number on it. “There you go, call anytime. I’ll sort you out with our Francine.”
Billy interrupted the conversation by placing a tray between them. He passed the cups around and they settled in.
Mrs. Reynolds drank her tea with relish. She didn’t seem to be suffering from any of the usual signs of stress. Billy’s colour, on the other hand, was only now returning to normal, which for Billy was the shade of curdled milk.
“Did you notice anything strange when you approached the house? Was the front door locked?” Ryan sipped his tea, strong enough to curl your toes.
“Nothing strange, just the same as always. The front door was locked, yes, I used my key to get in. I noticed the smell just after I arrived. I knew what it was. We’ve a farm, you know, we slaughter animals. I’m used to it. I went upstairs. I got to the end of the hall and saw blood on the bedroom wallpaper. Called Mr. Mullan’s name, but I didn’t go any further, didn’t look at anything else. Just came back down and called the police.”
“To clarify, you didn’t actually see the body?”
“Do you think I’d be sitting here like Lady Muck if I had?”
Excerpt from BLOOD RELATIONS by J Woollcott. Copyright 2023 by J Woollcott. Reproduced with permission from J Woollcott. All rights reserved.
J. Woollcott is a Canadian author born in Belfast, N. Ireland. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster. Her first book, A Nice Place to Die won the Daphne du Maurier Award, was short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in 2021 and was a Silver Falchion Award finalist at Killer Nashville 2023.
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Twitter - @JoyceWoollcott
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