A Famished Heart: read an extract

28 October 2019

This week we’re celebrating the launch of our new crime imprint, Viper Books. Every day this week we’ll be sharing the first chapter of a new book on the list: starting with Nicola White’s A Famished Heart, which you can read below.

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Nicola White

Her head was bowed, and the hands braced on the chair arms were not like hands at all, but the dry dark claws of a bird…

The Macnamara sisters hadn’t been seen for months before anyone noticed. It was Father Timoney who finally broke down the door, who saw what had become of them. Berenice was sitting in her armchair, surrounded by religious tracts. Rosaleen had crawled under her own bed, her face frozen in terror. Both had starved themselves to death.

Francesca Macnamara returns to Dublin after decades in the US, to find her family in ruins. Meanwhile, Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine are convinced that there is more to the deaths than suicide. Because what little evidence there is, shows that someone was watching the sisters die…

Poignant and haunting, A Famished Heart is the first in a powerful new trilogy set in 1980’s Dublin, exploring the power of the Catholic Church and the powerlessness of unmarried women.

Read an extract below.

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Chapter 3

Vincent Swan took the call from Deerfield Garda Station, wrote down the relevant address and scanned the office for someone to bring with him. Young Colin Rooney was eating a sandwich with his mouth open and reading the sports pages, a tempting target.

‘I’ve got a car signed out.’

He swivelled towards her voice. Detective Garda Gina Considine was already getting up from her desk. One week in the unit and keen as a razor.

‘Okay so.’

She swung her jacket off the back of her chair and jangled a set of car keys at him.

‘You can drive,’ said Swan.

‘Taking your life in your hands there,’ commented Ownie Hannigan from his den in the corner, half hidden by a buttress of filing cabinets and a fug of smoke. Swan ignored him, but some of the other men obliged with rote chuckles.

They headed out from Garda Headquarters onto the North Circular. The radio was playing some dreadful chirpy pop, so he twisted the knob and hit RTE1. A woman with a drawling voice was discussing food. The third time she said luscious, he hit the button.

Gina Considine side-eyed him. ‘Can I ask what we’re going to?’

‘An old woman, dead in her home. Found by her priest.’

He looked out of the side window. They were waiting at lights near Phibsborough Cross, entering his home turf, and his eyes automatically sought out his father’s old shop. The sign on the gable wall was still visible – just – the white letters faint on the red bricks now.



Considine was following his line of sight. ‘He’s got the same name as you. A relative?’

‘I can see why you were promoted to the detective unit.’ She looked uncertain how to respond.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean to sound sarcastic.’

The lights changed and she drove on, obeying his directions wordlessly. It was the thought of his father made him irritable. He had been a spectacularly bad businessman – filled his shop with gilt froufrou when the style was sleek and modern, then changed to sleek and modern when the middle classes were all for stripped dressers and Victoriana. His father never listened to anyone’s advice, least of all Swan’s mother. And now he was two years dead and his mother still heartbroken for the old bastard.

They passed by the end of his street and pulled onto the busy road towards Glasnevin. When he spotted the ugly church of St Alphonsus coming up on the far side, he pointed to a slip road and Considine turned off.

‘It should be around here.’

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