Advanced Book Review: Too Close to Breathe

Too Close to Breathe - Olivia Kiernan

Summary: 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.  




I received this novel through Penguin's First to Read program. Reviews will be spoiler-free.


I was intrigued by the novel and I was looking forward to reading this debut. It gave me greater mystery/thriller mix vibes and the atmosphere was like that of present-day gritty British crime dramas.


It's written in the first person, which worried me at first, but it was written well - I never felt like something was missing or that it could have been written better. The beginning was a little slow going, but by the time I got to another big plot point, which wasn't too far in, I was sucked in and wanting to find out what the solution was.


Frankie is a good protagonist - I was worried she would be one of those Healthcliffe-esque main characters who is so broken by a traumatic case that they have this cloud of despair constantly around them. She takes her experiences and though she isn't unaffected by them, she uses them to drive herself forward.


The writing itself is not your typically mystery/thriller writing. It reminds me heavily of poetry. There are lots of sentence fragments that are meant to punctuate the mood, characters, and settings. It took me a while to get used to it and just accept it. It's not terrible; it's just unusual.


The plot is good and it's fast-paced. I didn't think anything was obviously lacking or missing. The build up to the climax was a little lackluster and the final solution came slightly out of left field, but it's not completely unexpected.


Overall, for the unusual writing, the engaging protagonist, and chilling thriller, I give Too Close to Breathe an A