Galway, Ireland, is the setting for “The Scholar” (Penguin, 384 pp., $16 paperback original) by Dervla McTiernan, a young Irish writer now living in Australia. Considering it’s only her second novel (after “The Ruin,” a best-seller in Ireland), “The Scholar” is remarkably sure-footed and full-bodied.

Detective Sgt. Cormac Reilly is a smart and principled cop with an outstanding track record for clearing tough cases. But he also has issues with authority, and many of his colleagues are not overly fond of him.

Reilly lands in especially deep waters when he’s assigned to the case of a young woman murdered in a hit-and-run near a university biotech research facility.

The victim has no ID, but in her pocket is a swipe card for the facility belonging to another woman, Carline Darcy. Carline — whose grandfather founded a massively successful pharmaceutical company — is part of a biotech research team at the facility, which is bankrolled by that company.

Profoundly complicating things: Emma Sweeney, Reilly’s partner and a brilliant researcher at the lab, found the body — and emerges as a prime suspect. Reilly has only days to find the killer before accusations of a conflict of interest threaten to blow up the case.

Carline has a solid alibi, but the murder victim was her friend and she clearly knows more than she’s letting on. Reilly, aided by a handful of trusted colleagues, digs deep and uncovers a mass of corporate deceit and greed.


With its strong characters, sharp psychological insights and carefully paced plotting, McTiernan’s work inevitably brings to mind — favorably — that of another outstanding female Irish writer, Tana French.

On the local front: two prolific and reliable Seattle-area authors have new books out.

Gary Alexander’s “A Field Guide to Armageddon” (Encircle, 284 pp., $16.99 paperback original) spins off the JFK assassination. Alexander imagines a plot involving the who-what-why of what really happened and the current battle for a fortune stemming from the secrets behind the tragedy.

Gregg Olsen’s “Lying Next To Me” (Thomas & Mercer, 396 pp., $15.95 paperback original) is set on Hood Canal, where a troubled couple, Adam and Sophie, and their young daughter are vacationing. When, on only their second day, Adam witnesses Sophie being abducted, he’s helpless to stop it. But it seems he’s not telling local police everything he knows, and the couple in the next cabin over aren’t either.