Too Close to Breathe: a start to a new series I did not expect

Too Close to Breathe book review

What is this about?: Frankie Sheehan has just returned to work after an encounter with a killer who almost killed her. However, her current case could prove as dangerous when she starts to investigate a suicide that isn’t a suicide…

What else is this about?: PTSD, I feel. Frankie is still dealing with the ramifications of her ordeal and they affect her current case, and how those around her view her.

Blurb: Olivia Kiernan’s tautly written debut novel immerses readers in a chilling murder case . . . and the tantalizing, enigmatic victim at the center of it all.

In a quiet Dublin suburb, within her pristine home, Eleanor Costello is found hanging from a rope.

Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan would be more than happy to declare it a suicide. Four months ago, Frankie’s pursuit of a killer almost ended her life and she isn’t keen on investigating another homicide. But the autopsy reveals poorly healed bones and old stab wounds, absent from medical records. A new cut is carefully, deliberately covered in paint. Eleanor’s husband, Peter, is unreachable, missing. A search of the couple’s home reveals only two signs of personality: a much-loved book on art and a laptop with access to the Dark Web. 

With the suspect pool growing, the carefully crafted profile of the victim crumbling with each new lead, and mysterious calls to Frankie’s phone implying that the killer is closer than anyone would like, all Frankie knows is that Eleanor guarded her secrets as closely in life as she does in death. 

As the investigation grows more challenging, Frankie can’t help but feel that something doesn’t fit. And when another woman is found murdered, the same paint on her corpse, Frankie knows that unraveling Eleanor’s life is the only way to find the murderer before he claims another victim . . . or finishes the fate Frankie only just managed to escape. 

Engrossing, complex, and atmospheric, Olivia Kiernan’s debut novel will leave readers breathless. 

 Stars: 3.5/5

When I first started reading Too Close to Breathe I thought for sure I must have missed book one, but I haven’t. Instead Olivia Kiernan has taken a different tack on introducing us to Frankie. 

The book opens on Frankie’s first case back at work after being the victim of a killer in her last case. By all accounts, she is presenting the picture of someone doing all the right things to get back to work, but she is, in reality, not quite there yet. It is PTSD in some form, I think, though I am hardly the expert. 

The current case she’s on involves the murder of a professional, prim and proper Eleanor Costello, and while it could have easily been ruled a suicide, it isn’t. From there, the case snowballs, drawing in figures from Eleanor’s very regimented and secretive life, and casting suspicion on her missing husband.

As the case progresses, Kiernan draws a picture of a victim who is nothing like Frankie and her team thinks and who manages to surprise them and complicate their case even in death. Kiernan peels back the layers on their victim effectively, if slowly I think. , i

Inbetween this case, the full-ish story of Frankie’s experience previously comes out – her attack, the pending court case and the victim she tried to save. Kiernan has chosen an interesting way to mould Frankie, though I am not entirely sure it’s my cup of tea. Frankie’s experiences had a my attention a little more in the beginning of the book, while it felt like the mystery took some time to find its groove – perhaps there needed to be more balance between these two plot lines.

That said, this was an intense read for Frankie’s experiences, where Kiernan seems to prefer the “less is more” way of writing. The current case itself was intense too and by the end I was pretty impressed with an unexpected conclusion. Too often “unexpected” is code for the author didn’t lay down the right breadcrumbs for readers to make sense of the ending, but here, that’s not the case.

Kiernan is a subtle writer, weaving the threads of the case together until the end. 


  • I like the sounds of this one! Frankie past coming part of this book sounds like a great addition to the ongoing mystery they are trying to solve too. Great review.

  • Lily says:

    this actually does look like something I would enjoy. I love unexpected endings, if done right

  • Great review. I find it intriguing how the author chose to introduce Frankie and her backstory. I can’t decide if it would work well for me as a reader or not — I could see myself wondering if I had missed a book as well — but I do like the uniqueness of it.

    • Verushka says:

      TY! It took me some time to figure out if it would work with me — and some bits worked, others not so much, but overall, like you said, the overall package is pretty unique. I’m really quite curious as to how this series is going to progress.

  • That’s neat that there’s layers to the victim even, and it does sound like the author chose a kind of unique starting point for Frankie’s character and way of introducing her. Glad to hear the ending was good though and that the author was able to weave everything together!

    • Verushka says:

      I was actually a bit surprised as to how much I got into it, and then how it all came together. I am very, very curious as to how this series is going to progress, especially with respect to Frankie’s character.

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