The Dead Ground – Claire McGowan

deadground Title – The Dead Ground

Author – Claire McGowan

Published – 10 April 2014

Genre – Crime fiction

I’m a little late to the books by Claire McGowan, this being her third crime novel and the second in the Paula Maguire series (or McGuire if you’re on Amazon). This is a difficult book to review as I feel as if by doing to I’ve given far too much away, so you have been warned.

Maguire is a forensic psychologist working with the police in a small town in Northern Ireland, close to the border. The story starts with the abduction of a new-born baby from the maternity unit of the local hospital and is shortly followed by the disturbing discovery of a woman’s body in the centre of a local stone circle. With little to go on the investigation makes slow progress and soon another baby is missing as well as a pregnant woman. The team must decide if the events are linked and if so what possible motive there could be for the crimes. Some internal politics soon become apparent  – the team Maguire works in is dedicated to missing persons cases, but there is the thorny subject of what happens when your missing person turns up dead.

The cases develop greater significance for Maguire as she discovers that not only is she pregnant but she doesn’t know who the father is. This provides a contrast between her own situation and that of the victims of the crimes. There are two men in Maguire’s life – one is her boss and the other is a local journalist – and this was one area where I really felt I had missed out by coming to the series part way through. Neither of the men acquitted themselves very well in the book and they didn’t feature enough for me to understand what she saw in them or decide which one I preferred.

The investigation seems to become side-tracked when a local psychic offers her help and for me I would have liked to have seen more resolved around this character.

The prologue provides the reader with information which is key to the investigation and for me this lead to a feeling of frustration as I watched Maquire and her colleagues chase red herrings. There were points when I was (mentally) shouting at the characters to talk to each other – but as someone pointed out, perhaps a consequence of the Troubles is that people kept hidden things which would be better shared.

When writing fiction set in Northern Ireland authors must have a choice whether to acknowledge its history and culture or ignore it, and McGowan’s choice is to meet it head on. Aspects of the plot hark back to the times of the Troubles and she also explores some more contemporary issues of abortion and pro-life support.

An interesting spin on police procedurals.




  1. I’ve read the first one in this series and am not sure it provides that much more in the way of background regarding the two love interests. I haven’t decided whether to keep going with the series or not.

  2. I’m loving this series. I think the balance of investigation versus personal life is right, neither over shadowed by the other. Now waiting to find out what happens next for Paula…

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