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Apply that Pat Kenny show on Newstalk. And now the next topic we have could involve some mention of abuse. So just a word of warning on that in an isolated island community off the coast of Cork.
A girl is murdered 10 years later. A documentary crew appears hoping to solve the mystery, even though the people of the area already believe they know who is to blame.
Now, that's the plot of best selling author Louise O'Neill's latest book is called After the Silence. And Louise joins me on the line.
Louise, good morning. Good morning. Pass. Now, the book is a psychological thriller, and that's a genre that you haven't really tackled before.
Yeah. You know, it's interesting that this is my fifth novel and I don't think I'm necessarily as was confined by the idea of genre. You know, I've read dystopian novels, I've written contemporary novels. And but this is my first foray into psychological thrillers. And I think it's not necessarily a genre that I would have even read a lot of traditionally. But I think over the last number of years, there have just been so many amazing female authors who are writing in this genre.
And I think using this as a sort of a narrative vehicle to explore issues that impact women's lives, like Leon Moriarity with domestic abuse and big little lies, or Aaron Kelly or Megan Abbott. So I think it was something that I was really excited just to challenge myself by trying to write in this new in this new way.
Now, the book begins with the arrival of an Australian film crew to make a documentary about this unsolved murder. A number of people have been making comparisons between that theme and the West Cork podcast.
And in your own head, are there parallels?
I mean, there are obviously no parallels between the actual cases. But I think that obviously, having come from West Cork and being, you know, a young girl, when Sophie, Tascon, Delonte, was murdered, it was very shocking. And I think that when the podcast, when the West Cork podcast aired in 2018, I was absolutely I just I just I binge in 24 hours. It's a 13 part series. And I think a part of me really hoped by the end of it that the documentary makers would have solved the crime and they would have figured out who did this.
And I suppose that Sophie and her family and the people of West Cork could have peace at last. But obviously, you know, real life isn't tied up as neatly as it is in fiction, and that's not what happened. But I think afterwards I couldn't stop thinking about the idea of, you know, these documentary makers coming into this very small, tightly knit community and asking questions and, you know, with their English accents and and I think trying to uncover truths that some people would not want to be on covers.
And to me, and especially, I suppose, given the recent just obsession and infatuation with true crime, it just seemed like the perfect basis for a novel. You actually mentioned in the book, and I'm quoting, salivating over the details play acting like a bunch of Nancy Drus, as if there's not real people involved, real families torn apart.
I mean, do you understand why we're all fascinated by this? There's a touch of, you know, the we we slow down to see the road accident on the hard shoulder.
We don't need to, but we do. Yeah, it's interesting.
I remember one time when I was in New York, there was this big crowd of people gathering by this building. And I stopped and I asked what's happening? And they pointed up and they said, there's someone up there, they're about to jump. And I just thought to myself, like, I was rushing away as quickly as I could. And I thought, you know, that would be an incredibly traumatizing thing to witness. And I don't understand this sort of insatiable desire, I think, to be a witness to it.
And over the last number of years, I suppose in Serial, really in 2014, I've noticed that, you know, that my WhatsApp groups are littered with, you know, recommendations for increasingly grisly podcasts. And it's been I was a little bit unsettling to see sometimes how the victims are erased and the suspects or the killers are not glorified. But I think it's sort of there's a lot of mythology that happens around us.
And what whether elevated, certainly in the public mind, aren't they saying that the victim forgotten about the perpetrator or alleged perpetrators elevated in in the public mind? So we would all know them perhaps after we've forgotten who the victims were, like a perfect example of Ted Bundy.
Know, I don't I don't know one name of any of his victims, but he I think has, I suppose, created this niche for himself at the center of our culture, which I think is really strange. And I also think it's interesting the way that the most the majority of people who consume to crime, whether that's novels or whether that's documentaries or podcasts, tends to be women. And then all too often, the victims at the center of these unsolved murders are also female.
So I think there was something in that that I was really struck by, I think especially as a woman where so often I think we're conditioned as we grow up to be very vigilant and to be on the lookout for violence, whether that's abuse or rape or murder all the time. And I wonder in some way is consuming true crime where we can keep it at a certain, I think, psychological distance. I just wonder is does it offer some sort of relief in a very strange way to that tension that has been building up within us for years?
Now, the plot itself, I don't know how much you want to share with us about the background to this, as we said at the beginning, it's a cold case. Documentary crew arrived to poke at the embers of this. So give us the bones of things that you're prepared to reveal.
Well, you know, it's on this island called in a Sharu where a very wealthy, glamorous family called the councillor's have set up this world renowned artist retreat center there. And the youngest, Ken Salazar. And Henry marries a local woman, Keelen. And it's a kid's birthday party that this wild storm engulfs the island, completely causing it all from the mainland. And the next morning, the body of a young woman is found and no one can get on the island.
No one can get off the island. So it has to be someone there who did it. And then 10 years later, you know, the murder of the beautiful methacrylate still haunts the Irish people. And that's when this team of true crime documentary makers from Australia arrived in Australia determined to figure out exactly what happened that night.
I'm sure it's no insult to you to suggest that there's an element of the structure of Agatha Christie, you know, where everyone is in the in the manor house and nobody comes in or out and it's got to be the butler or the guests or the owner. Got to be somebody because no one can get in or out of the house.
Yeah, well, I played a lot of Clouzot as a child, so maybe that's what's up. But but yes, I think that locked room device, you know, as you said, like whether you're on death on the Nile or you're on an island or you're in this manor house in the middle of a blizzard, it's a really interesting narrative device. And Agatha Christie would definitely be, I suppose, the most famed user of us. But I think there's something about that where there's no there's a sense that you can't escape.
And I think that an island is just a perfect place to play, you know, to to have that place. Because I know even as a child, I remember we missed the last ferry. We were on Cape Clear for the day and we missed the last ferry. And I think that realisation of we're surrounded by water here, we can't get off this island. And ever since, you know, every time there's been a storm, I've often thought of the people on the islands.
And you would wonder what would happen if you went into labor early earth, someone had a heart attack, you know, how long would you be waiting for help to arrive? And I think that was a great inspiration for After the Silence as well.
Now, the effect, I suppose, when you were listening to the West Coast podcast and, you know, the ripples that go out, it's not just the directly involved parties whose lives are affected. I think the West broadcast showed us that the ripples engulf everybody in the community, do it to a greater or lesser, lesser extent.
Yeah, I mean, I suppose I know that from personal experience, you know, I was 11 when this happened. And I think that when you grow up in an area like West Cork, you know, particularly in the 90s, it was just incredibly safe. And we were as children, we were afforded an enormous amount of freedom. You know, there were there were no we didn't lock our doors. You know, I didn't even know where the keys were.
It was just I think this sense of safety and community and that crime didn't really happen, places like this. And of course it did. But I was as a child, you're very innocent of that. And I think that when we heard news that she had been murdered, it was so shocking because it felt like I think some of the darkness from the outside world had encroached upon ours. And I also think that, you know, growing up in an area like that, you're also very aware of how important tourism is.
The idea of you almost have two faces, you know, one for locals and one for what we would have called blow ins or tourists or people who were who were holidaying there, that, you know, that you would really want them to feel welcome or to see Ireland as this very friendly, warm place. And for something like this to happen to an outsider, to someone who had believed that she was safe in West Cork in our community, I think that was really devastating as well.
Well, it's a terrific read after the Silence. It's called it's published by Riverrun. It's available now at thirteen ninety nine at Good Bookshops. And its author, Louise O'Neill. Thank you very much for joining us on the program today.
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