Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan – review

Published by Riverrun

Publication date – 5 April 2018

Source – review copy


Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanged in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.


DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.


As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.

Detective Chief superintendent Frankie Sheehan has just returned to work after a traumatic event in which she nearly lost her life. Her first case appears to be a suicide but Frankie is quick to spot a clue that shows the death was caused by someone else. Soon the gears are in motion to track down the killer. And then another body is found.

Don’t be misled if you start to read this novel and think you’ve arrived in the middle of the series. You haven’t. Frankie was involved in an incident and has just returned to work when the body of Dr Eleanor Costello is found. She is still dealing with the ramifications of that previous event as she comes to investigate an apparent suicide that is in fact murder. As the story progresses Frankie has to face that history to discover what is happening in the here and now.

Frankie is brittle, dedicated and takes no-nonsense. She is hard-working and expects that from her team of detectives. She doesn’t come across as that friendly, except with her boss Jack Clancy and fellow detective Baz. The relationship between these three, and Frankie and Baz in particular, brought light relief to what is otherwise a dark novel.  It is the theme of the novel that makes it so dark, BDSM and the desire to feel death without dying is central to the plot but is not used in a gratuitous way. The story travels from Dublin to the coast and becomes a little more personal for Frankie when events happen in her home town. The reader is given only a brief glimpse into her past, but the feeling is there that these are to sow the seeds for further revalations in later books.

Too Close to Breathe is a strong debut and opener to a new series. There are other characters that make up the team, each one with their own specialism that makes for interesting dynamics. I am hoping that future books develop the characters further (with Frankie hopefully being a bit nicer to her colleagues, particularly poor Helen). The reader can only create a small picture of Frankie Sheehan from this novel. She keeps her cards close to her chest. I get the impression almost that every reader of the book will have their own vision of who the characters are.

I had figured out who the culprit was which perhaps explains why I was shaking my head at Frankie as the denouement played out, wondering how she managed to get herself into such scrapes and telling her what she should not be doing. However this did not spoil my enjoyment of the story

An entertaining, well written novel with an unusual plot, that moves at just the right pace. I look forward to reading more from Olivia Kiernan in the future.

About the author

Olivia Kiernan is an Irish writer living in the UK. She was born and raised in County Meath, near the famed heritage town of Kells and holds an MA in Creative Writing awarded by the University of Sussex. Too Close to Breathe is her first novel.

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