Skip to main content

Too Close to Breathe


Too Close to Breathe

Vociferous readers of genre fiction live to find new writing talents. This is especially true when it comes to crime fiction. Olivia Kiernan, whose debut police procedural thriller has just been published, will certainly find a place on the TBR lists of mystery aficionados right out of the gate. This sure-footed, perfectly constructed mystery will be shortlisted for many awards and appear on a number of “best of” lists this year.

TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE revolves around Frankie Sheehan, whose first person present narrative drives the tale from the beginning to its conclusion. As a result, the reader never knows more than Frankie, thus heightening the suspense throughout. Frankie is a Detective Chief Superintendent with Dublin law enforcement. The novel begins in the midst of a grisly crime scene, in which an attractive woman is found dangling from the end of a rope in her meticulously appointed home.

"One of Kiernan’s strengths, manifested almost immediately here, is that showing rather than telling seems to be second nature to her."

Frankie, who is in charge of the investigation, is just returning to duty after a long recovery from serious, life-threatening injuries sustained during the course of apprehending a murder suspect, and is experiencing residual physical and psychological limitations to which she refuses to submit. At first the death is thought to be a suicide, but Frankie, a canny observer, questions that conclusion and demonstrates that it is erroneous in a clever vignette that is one of the most memorable in the book.

Once the case is properly classified, the immediate suspect is the victim’s husband, who has vanished. While the police are searching for him, another murder occurs that not only has a tie to the first but strikes Frankie close to home, literally. As the police continue to investigate, Frankie, who has a strong inclination to do things correctly --- even when they are to her detriment --- discovers to her horror that both murders have similarities to one on the books that the department has considered closed. In fact, it was the case in which she sustained the injuries that nearly ended her life.

Given that she already is driven to obtain justice for the victims in the more recent homicides, Frankie is further motivated to solve the murders in order to rectify what appears to be a serious prior error of her own. Little does she suspect, though, that her desire to see justice done will once again put her in mortal danger as she closes in on the killer, who is much closer than she can imagine.

One of Kiernan’s strengths, manifested almost immediately here, is that showing rather than telling seems to be second nature to her. The reader learns within a page or two that Frankie is no shrinking violet, although this is never specifically stated. There also appears to be an extremely interesting family history that hopefully will be revealed in dribs and drabs over the course of the next few books in the series. Frankie’s entire life seems to be wrapped up in her work, and there is some interesting symbolism in the form of a specific type of plant that also will undoubtedly play out in the future.

One cannot read TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE without wishing and hoping for much more, and sooner rather than later.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 6, 2018

Too Close to Breathe
by Olivia Kiernan

  • Publication Date: March 12, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 1524742635
  • ISBN-13: 9781524742638