Amy Cronin has just released her first novel, a crime thriller set in Cork city. PHOTO: Adrian O’Herlihy

Cork gets a new star detective

Anna Clarke, the protagonist in debut author Amy Cronin’s novel ‘Blinding Lies’, is an accidental heroine.

She’s an ordinary person going about her day when things change with the opening of a file at work. As a clerical officer in a busy Cork city garda station, Amy’s daily tasks do not include crime solving, rather the typing and filing of reports.

This, however, gives her access to information she simply can’t ignore and spurs her into action, drawing her into considerable danger.

Following the disappearance of her parents when she was a teenager, Anna carries heartache that has greatly impacted her life and shaped who she is. Hope lingers that the mystery of her parents’ disappearance can be resolved but she isn’t a detective or skilled in investigation techniques, so she hires a private investigator. This hunt for answers is forced to take a backseat though, as soon she is immersed in the darkness of the city.

It is in trying to help a friend accused of murder that Anna unintentionally ends up unearthing the grasp a criminal enterprise has on the city. Her actions scratch the surface and reveal the depths one criminal family has sunk to. What happens in ‘Blinding Lies’ changes the course of her life and sets the scene for a Cork-based trilogy, with Anna Clarke right at the centre.

Author Amy is from Cork and lives in Kinsale. She always loved writing and literature at school and started an Arts Degree in UCC, selecting English as a subject. She then changed her mind and switched to economics, one of her biggest regrets.

Ultimately, she earned a business degree and completed a research Master’s in management.

“I focused on what I thought would be a good area for my career but never managed to suppress my creative side.” She never stopped writing short stories, diary entries and poems.

After completing her Masters, Amy followed her heart to Northampton in the UK where she worked in the Avon headquarters. She returned to Ireland and worked in the Department of Agriculture, before moving to Social Protection for eight years. Life was busy: mortgage, kids and work. The dream of publishing books continued but was dampened by day-to-day life.

Amy turned 40 in 2020, the year Covid-19 hit. These two events were a catalyst to change her train of thought around writing. The prevailing idea that this career couldn’t possibly happen changed into a feeling that she owed it to herself to at least try.

“Cork city has always enthralled me. It’s my home city, full of rich characters, lights and shadows. I love the smells and sounds of the city. In ‘Blinding Lies’, there are a host of fictional characters that feel very real and Cork serves as a great backdrop. There was nowhere else Anna’s story could be set,” explains Amy.

When Amy sat down to write her debut novel, it was always going to be a female protagonist at the heart of the story.

“I love reading thrillers and so many of my favourites are dominated by male characters, such as Jack Reacher and John Rebus. I enjoyed creating a female character that could battle against the odds too. Anna has a deep inner strength, yet is vulnerable, and sometimes her decisions lead her down the wrong path. She could be any one of us.”

It was important to Amy that her main character was someone relatable: “She’s a very regular person. She enjoys her career and spending time with her friends. She works out, she’s close to her brother, she adores her niece. Anna’s lonely and has unanswered questions about her parents and as the story opens, she’s ready to make changes in her life. She’s just trying to do her best, as everyone does.”

Amy has been writing and reading all her life. Her favourite genre is thrillers and her favourite author is Ian Rankin. She finds his Detective Rebus series especially enjoyable but she admits she loves to root for the ‘accidental’ hero.

“I love thrillers and mystery stories but I particularly love characters that get swept up in the events of the book – regular people who find themselves at the heart of something thrilling.

“Anna means well in everything she does and tries desperately to hold on to the memory of her parents. She listens to her mother’s favourite music as often as she can and she trains and teaches in her father’s passion, taekwon-do. It keeps her close to them.”

When Anna’s childhood friend Kate is accused of murder, Anna is the clerical officer typing up the garda report and immediately wants to help. “Being the type of person she is, it makes sense she would want to help an old friend.”

It’s more than just trying to clear her friend’s name, however. The man she’s accused of killing is the son of one of the city’s biggest criminals.

“Kate has fled the scene. Anna knows the gardaí are searching for her but she also knows what the Gallaghers, the long-suspected criminals in the city, are capable of. She knows they will stop at nothing to avenge their son. She’s desperate to find Kate and plans to encourage her to turn herself in. It’s safer for her than hiding in the city.”

Of course, this is a thriller, and so things don’t quite go according to plan. With side plots that weave into the narrative and keep the reader on their toes, things come to a head and in the end, Anna learns more about her past.

“The actions of the three main characters in ‘Blinding Lies' are all motivated by love for their family. Anna’s search for her parents and her determination to help her friend stem from the heart. Kate finds herself in danger in the city and accused of murder because she was desperate to help her sister. And Tom Gallagher is a grieving father, trying to put the wrongs his family has suffered to rights.”

Does Amy see elements of herself in her main character? “In some respects, yes, although the only real similarity is that I was a clerical officer once too! Anna Clarke is relatable in many different ways and hopefully she’s someone readers will care about.”

‘Blinding Lies’ by Amy Cronin from Poolbeg Books, is available in all good bookshops now.