'Too Close to Breathe' excels with realistic characters

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'Too Close to Breathe' excels with realistic characters
This cover image released by Dutton shows "Too Close To Breathe," a novel by Olivia Kiernan. (Dutton via AP)

“Too Close to Breathe: a Novel” (Dutton), by Olivia Kiernan

Dublin makes a formidable background for a tense police procedural that introduces a strong heroine in “Too Close to Breathe.” Irish author Olivia Kiernan imbues Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan with intelligence and unusual sleuthing skills in the exciting debut, “Too Close To Breathe.”

Frankie plunges back into work after recovering from severe wounds suffered when she responded to a murder that was still in progress. Her latest assignment should be simple — sign off on the apparent suicide of Eleanor Costello, a microbiologist and part-time lecturer at University College Dublin.

But Frankie sees too many inconsistencies at the scene, and her further investigation uncovers evidence that Eleanor had dark secrets and a history of violence, despite her prim and proper demeanor. The investigation takes another turn when Frankie and her team learn that Eleanor’s husband, Peter, has been missing for several weeks. Peter also is the link to another woman who was murdered live on the internet. As Frankie delves into the Costello investigation, she also prepares to testify in the trial of the murderer who injured her.

Kiernan’s insights into Frankie’s emotional and physical recovery are skillfully woven into the plot of “Too Close to Breathe.” While the serial killer is often overused, Kiernan finds a unique twist to this trope, where Dublin’s streets and neighborhoods receive a fresh view.

“Too Close to Breathe” excels with realistic characters, from Frankie and her police colleagues to the surprising villain.