Dervla McTiernan
May 16, 2022

Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed writer, Dervla McTiernan is the author of The RuinThe Scholar and The Good Turn. The Ruin was published in 2018 and is the first in the detective Cormac Reilly series. The Ruin was a top ten bestseller and an Amazon Best Book of July 2018. Dervla was a New Blood Panellist at Harrogate Festival. The Scholar was published in 2019 and was a top five bestseller. The Good Turn will be published in 2020. The Ruin has been optioned for TV by Hopscotch Features.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q How did you get the idea for the story?

Dervla: It was inspired by an article I read a few years ago. An Irish woman interned for the Innocence Project in the US over a summer. She could not let go of the case and tracked down some evidence that freed a man from prison, but after five more years. When freed, he had been in prison 26 years with only three years left from his original sentence. I thought what if the Innocence Project had a PR team that would take a step off the path to be effective.


Q Did you have any law experience?

Dervla: I was a lawyer for twelve years, a commercial lawyer. I did a lot of research because this story has a criminal case. I found some cases that were widely reported and then read the case law. Everything I described has happened or could happen.


Q What was your thought process while writing the story considering everything seems upside down today where people ignore the victim and look on criminals as victims?

Dervla: I wanted to play with those ideas. People get so convinced of an idea one way or the other. Miscarriages of justice are not always about some officials being corrupt. It seems people only hear a side of the story they want to hear, ignoring the evidence to the contrary. Many times, we decide beforehand and then seek evidence to confirm it. Are they seeing the whole picture or just are looking at what they want to believe? I put in this book quote, “It was clearly just as easy to put someone on a pedestal of innocence and blind yourself to their faults.”


Q How would you describe Hannah?

Dervla: At the beginning of the book, she is this idealistic law student. She comes across as someone who wants to change the world and impress those in the Innocence Project. But that is not who she is at all. Hannah is darker, more complicated, and ruthless, but grows a lot through the book. She is imaginative, creative, has no boundaries, pragmatic, and feels betrayed. She conned her way into the Innocence Project.


Q Why do you think readers like Hannah?

Dervla: I am glad you liked her. She followed the evidence and sought justice. She can change her mind and question more instead of ignoring it. She followed the facts and the truths. She felt a responsibility to inform herself and took responsibility of her actions. She took the extra step.


Q Can you explain this quote, “We believe only the facts that suit the story we like, and we ignore everything else.”

Dervla: I am very interested in the impact of social media on our lives. I don’t think we grasp how quickly it is changing us. We are being pushed into camps and told to stay there. Because of the nature of the algorithms, we only hear from that camp and stop hearing from anybody else. Then we double and triple down in our camps. This does not create an atmosphere of understanding and empathy. I hope this is where fiction can help because it allows us to step into others’ shoes and see a different point of view.


Q What are the roles of Sean and Camila?

Dervla: They are two other law students, Hannah’s peers, who work with her on the Innocence Project. Sean was always the good person. He is very smart and is not cynical. Sean maintains his idealism in the face of reality. He was always intended to be the contrast with Hannah. He has enduring strength, while she has brash strength.

Camila is ambitious, a hard worker, and smart. She is more suspicious of Hannah and does not take her at face value.


Q What’s next?

Dervla: I could potentially circle back to these characters. But my next book is a different stand-alone. Hopefully it will be out this time next year. I do not have a title and am still thinking of the story. I do want to let people know that FX has optioned this story and it will go into production next year. I did send my background on the characters and where I thought the important part of the story is. I also received the take on what the writers thought.


Review by Elise Cooper

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan will remind readers of a Lee Child story. The setting is a small town with corrupt officials. The story has the Child emphasis of blackmail, murder, corruption, and betrayal.

The plot begins with third year law student Hannah Rokeby transferring from a law school in Maine to the University of Virginia. She is leaving her mother, a very manipulative alcoholic. Once at UV she joins the Innocence Project, which is currently representing convicted killer Michael Dandridge. The IP tracks down evidence to prove the convicted criminal’s innocence. While everybody else is working to exonerate the client, Hannah’s primary goal is to sabotage his chance at freedom. Why? Because she found her mom’s diary which chronicles how her mom, then a maid, had an affair with a wealthy collegiate, and got pregnant. Unfortunately, Hannah never knew her father because there were suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. But the sheriff and the district attorney want to prevent anyone from snooping around. Hannah and her co-workers, Sean and Camila, must watch their backs as they try to untangle the facts.

This story took readers on a roller coaster ride with their assumptions and emotions. As the plot progresses, people will see Hannah as first an idealistic student, then very ruthless and manipulative, and finally very sympathetic. The story is one where readers will not want to put the book down.

Dervla McTiernan's Latest

The Murder Rule Psychological Suspense

The Murder Rule

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

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