The Scholar: Murder, mystery and the question of how well we know our loved ones

The scholar book review

Whats is this about?: Cormac finds himself investigating the hit-and-run of a young girl at a university lab, except she wasn’t a student at the university. And Emma, his partner is the one that found her.

What else is this about?: It’s about how you think you know the ones you love the most, and sadly how they realise they may not know you.


When DS Cormac Reilly’s girlfriend Emma stumbles across the victim of a hit and run early one morning, he is first on the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. The dead girl is carrying an ID, that of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company. Darcy Therapeutics has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The investigation into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but how well does he really know her? After all, this isn’t the first time Emma’s been accused of murder…

The Scholar opens on a murder  — Emma is driving home from her lab when she comes across a student, who is the victim of a hit and run. She calls Cormac immediately, instead of the garda (police in Ireland) and that sets off a chain reaction …

The case

The body is identified as Carline Darcy, the granddaughter of a multi-gazillionaire pharma tycoon John Darcy.

Cormac lands the case, in tandem with another case, taken over from another DS who is stretched too thin. From there, it becomes apparent that things aren’t going all that well for Cormac in his position. People still don’t trust him, don’t trust his past and when his colleagues find out Emma is a witness, it kinda makes things worse … because she was accused of murder once, and Cormac was on her case too.

So the question becomes for his colleagues: is he protecting her?

Given the high profile nature of the case, it’s clear that politics and money are going to affect this investigation. But then, it’s discovered that Carline is actually alive… so who is the young girl with her ID?

A very interesting question, yes?

Isn’t it just? Why would a student who dropped out of university to help out her family by working have the ID of the rich, genuis Carline?

Very rapidly another question is added to the mix: what is Carline hiding?

Cormac begins to investigate, even as his worry continues about Emma and how she seems to slowly fracture in the wake of her finding the body. She insists that everything is okay, but as the case progresses, it becomes clear that it isn’t.

Mctiernan delves into what Emma did, and why she and Cormac find themselves in a new city and a new police force. It’s plays in well into Cormac’s case, into his mindset of a cop trained to suspect everything and everyone, even as he knows this is Emma, the woman he loves.

But what’s worse? For Emma to pretend she’s something she’s not? Or for Cormac to assume she’s hiding something?

There’s a subplot through the story of Carline, who is trying to live up to the legacy of her grandfather, and not her party-girl mother, for whom her birth was an accident that landed her in a rich family. Carline wants very much to live up to everything that comes with being a Darcy.

What’s more tragic is the story of the woman found abandoned on a dark road, with no one to claim her. Through the book we learn her story, about the secrets she kept from the people who loved her the most, even as she did her best to protect and help them. She hid who she was, like Carline hid who she is from those closest to her.

There’s a viciousness underlying this plot, a ruthlessness that makes you wonder about the reality of this sector in real life. You may see what’s coming, I know I did, but that doesn’t detract from the strength, complexity and flawed nature of these characters. Who maybe want nothing more than to be loved for who they are.

It’s Cormac’s And Emma’s relationship that attracted me to this story, and while I found a bit of what I was looking for, I wished for more at the ending here, as I thought it might’ve been wrapped up too neatly between them for what he .. did. Felt. Thought.

BUT… perhaps that’s the point: that all the things unsaid here go BOOM and get explored in the next one. Bc there’s much to be said about Emma and Cormac and the expectations that come with being in love. And the trust.

Interesting installment, with characterisation that kept me turning the page, eager for what’s next.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.