Review: The Doom Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 1) by Brian O’Hare

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

If you’re not a tout de suite fan of outright macabre murder scenes, you might want to avoid The Doom Murders, the first book in Brian O’Hare’s Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series. Having read and reviewed the third book in this series, I can tell you that there’s a good chance that the killer Sheehan and the detectives working under him need to find is a bit of a puzzler. This makes reading any of the novels in this series, which is set in Ireland, something of an exciting task to see done.

Chief Inspector Jim Sheehan gave the word to tell the public that two horrible murders were being treated as separate cases, but it was not to be. Now people believed that there was a connection between the murders of a bishop and a principal. A photograph puts the final nail in the coffin. Sheehan has no choice but to conclude that the murders being dubbed “The Naked Murders” are connected. Then, a third victim turns up. A social worker. After a few people are eliminated off of the list of suspects, a new name pops up. Sheehan, as well the investigators on his team, dread the possibility that the man responsible for The Naked Murders might just be an ex-cop, but what they learn leaves them with little choice – they have to dig deeper.

Before readers are introduced to Chief Inspector Jim Sheehan, the author explains what a “Doom” is in the world of art. Christian paintings that could be found in medieval churches from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. The connection between the murders and the Doom paintings come at a time after readers are sure that they’ve pinned the killer’s identity down to a grain, but it’s only a clever deception by O’Hare.

The first chapter takes us right to the crime scene where the body of Charles Loughran is found in a large study where Sheehan, whose Catholicism has lapsed, notices a crucifix which causes him to look away. As readers go through the pages, they start to see how Sheehan’s forgotten faith, or rather something he doesn’t fully understand himself yet, starts calling to him in little ways. For those who have been down similar roads, the signs and emotions as a result of a returning lost faith will be familiar.

Sheehan has a good eye, enabling him to catch little details. But a good eye is far from the only thing that this Chief Inspector is gifted with as a cop. An envious and perhaps fearful inspector called Williams thinks Sheehan is just a lucky man. After all, Sheehan has gotten the promotion that he always wanted. Luck has nothing to do with Sheehan being as good as he is though. Sheehan seems to be deeply in touch with his subconscious mind. Or at least, in touch on a level high enough to draw important solutions – insights – out of that part of his mind to help him solve cases. What makes him good is further revealed when the author provides enough material for readers to draw a comparison between him and that other inspector called Williams.

Meeting Detective Sergeant Kevin Doyle was a pleasure. Partly because he is not in the third book of this series and partly because, well, thinking about him and the almost constant inscrutable expression he wore on his face always brought a smile to my face. Of course, he is not the only cop working under Sheehan that readers will grow to like. There is Allen, a newbie who often brings something useful to the table when the need arises. He was the investigator on Sheehan’s team that stood out for me. Third but not least, there is also Connors, a man revealed to be built like a rugby player, who comes in handy when it comes to questioning suspects who might have an attitude about them.

Readers are left with the sense that there is a slight possibility that one of the murders is done by a copycat, but it’s difficult to see how after a time. Though the murders are similar, not all of them are exactly the same. “There was a rope round that victim’s neck, too, although he wasn’t drowned like this one.” As the final chapters drew near, there remained little reason for me to believe that a copycat killer was somehow involved in one of the murders at all. On some minuscule level, I did find this disappointing: unsuspected avenues like this can really add something that readers will come back to long after they’ve finished the novel.

It is the manner in which the bodies are positioned, however, that makes Sheehan recognize them as being left by the same killer. “…awkward, no obvious symmetry, no pattern.” And it is these positions of the bodies that prompts a highly religious figure named Monsignor Byrne – someone not immune from becoming a person of interest in the case – to reveal that they are like the bodies seen tumbling down in a Doom painting.

The killer seems to be killing out of faith, believing that he is “the hand of God.” Meanwhile, the retired cop being the killer looks even more likely because of what he is said to ramble about in front of the prayer group that he leads. But as I said, O’Hare’s killers are puzzlers, so, familiar with the author’s work as I am, I couldn’t just bank on the retired cop being Sheehan’s guy. Because the killer obviously has a military background, not even the cops on Sheehan’s squad are safe from rounds of suspicion.

So, having finished yet another brilliant book by Brian O’Hare, I’m starting to view his work as more than fiction. Faith is a word that is strongly challenged here as the author draws a perfect line between doing something based on faith versus doing something based on delusion. Furthermore, religions, old and still busy forming, are also thrown into the core of this well-written murder mystery.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Date Published: October 25, 2015
Genre: Police Procedurals
Pages: 374
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