Can Anybody Help Me? – Sinead Crowley

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image“It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name, but she thought of her as a friend. Or at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin”

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to NetMammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.

When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrible danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

 

Can Anybody Help Me? is a nicely done psychological thriller, that highlights people’s misunderstandings of internet security, shows how easy it is to become ‘friends’ with total strangers, how desperate people can be for interaction with others and above all plays on our fears of what we can ever really know about who is behind a screen name?

NetMammy is a chatroom for new mums looking for help, but someone is out there looking for new mums… At first Yvonne believes it’s just a coincidence that her friend has disappeared from the forum.

The forum sections themselves are well written, and highly realistic of chat rooms around the world, where the false sense of security of being behind a screen, means that every day people offer up a little too much of themselves before realising too late that once it’s out there it’s out there for good.

Sargeant Claire Boyle is a genuine character, enjoyable to read, as she tries, and often fails to balance out her work and home life due to this difficult to crack case and her own pregnancy woes.

With young mothers being the killers victims it’s a disturbing and twisted read with a kicker of a sting in the tale when the villain is revealed, as there are enough false leads to keep you second guessing all the way through, then leaving you staring at the page in disbelief when you know ‘whodunnit’.

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The Dead Ground – Claire McGowan

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A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.

Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.

As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The Dead Ground is the second outing for McGowans forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, and opens just a few weeks after the events of previous novel The Lost. Maguire is having to come to terms with the consequences of her recent actions, an unplanned pregnancy with two potential fathers, both of which come with their own sets of problems.

Maguire is a woman used to being able to make decisions about her own future, and McGowan deals well with issues she faces as a woman seeking a solution to a life changing situation in a country where abortion is still illegal.  She also handles well the strained relationships and fine political lines being walked both between the Serious Crime division and MPRU, as well as between the Northern and Southern Ireland police forces.

With an intelligent plot, and a killer most won’t see coming, The Dead Ground is a great read, and for those of you who haven’t read the first book, don’t be put off picking this up and reading it first.  It works well on its own, with enough information from The Lost to help you understand Maguires situation, and not enough to spoil your enjoyment of the book should you choose to go back and read it later.