Dearbhla making mark with debut crime novel The Ruin

Dervla McTiernan at the Galway launch of her book, The Ruin. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.
Dervla McTiernan at the Galway launch of her book, The Ruin. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

“Galway is the place I know better than anywhere else. It’s my favourite place and it’s in my bones,” says Dearbhla McTiernan, whose debut novel, The Ruin, has just been published in Ireland by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown UK.

A crime novel set in Galway, The Ruin has been a fixture on the bestseller list in Australia and in New Zealand since February, when it was published there by Harper Collins. It – its title in that territory is The Rúin (The Secret in Irish)

Dearbhla, who lives in Australia, had the dream situation where her first manuscript was the subject of a bidding war, with major companies seeking publication rights across the globe.

But Dearbhla (the publishers spell her name Dervla) wasn’t totally engaged while the haggling was going on as she was recovering from serious brain surgery. It was all slightly surreal, she says.

However, there’s been nothing surreal about the reaction to The Ruin, a page-turner in which Galway is the extra character. The city and its landmarks are home to Aisling Conroy, whose boyfriend Jack has apparently died by suicide by jumping into the Corrib as well as Jack’s sister Maud, who suspects foul play, and Detective Cormac Reilly, who has a historic connection with Jack and Maud.

The book’s admirers include Marian Keyes who tweeted that it was “excellently written and at times, heart-catchingly sad”.

Dearbhla is in Ireland for a few days for launches and interviews. Her husband Kenny and their two children remained in Perth as this was a work trip. She’s looking forward to returning to them and the place that’s now home.

Dearbhla, who studied Corporate Law at NUIG and with the Law Society, and then worked as a solicitor, met Kenny in college – he was studying civil engineering. They became romantically involved later and were married with a young daughter, Freya, when the financial crash happened. The couple, who’d worked hard “and had played by the rules”, were badly affected. Work dried up here, so they left their “forever home” in Kilcolgan for Australia to shape a new life, which would centre more on family than work.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.