An opening scene of death and abandonment in the rain, rain, rain of 1993 Galway . . . the same ordinary-guy detective, Cormac Reilly (very much in the mold of Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk), embroiled in a cold case twenty years later in Galway . . . a stink of police corruption and Catholic misdeeds in the “dark heart of Ireland,” as the blurb for The Ruin puts it . . . all of this filled me with pre-reading dread. I’m not against convention, even cliché, in crime fiction, for the genre is one of reassuring tropes, but debut author Dervla McTiernan’s much hyped novel seemed destined to be a yawn. Instead The Ruin is a sparkling, assured surprise package: fulsome characters, a complex and clever plot that drags one onward, deftly styled prose, and locales one can see and smell. The familiar themes of justice and evil across the decades nonetheless impacted me; I found myself quite moved. So . . . start on the first page and I guarantee you’ll be grabbed and transported.