A Famished Heart by Nicola White | Blog Tour Review

Published by Viper
Available in ebook, audiobook and paperback (27 February 2020)
368 pages
Source: Copy provided for review by publisher



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…


My thanks to Rachel of Profile Books for the invitation to take part in Viper’s inaugural blog tour and for providing the copy for review.

This looked like a dark read from the description and goodness, this was a haunting and atmospheric story.  It’s inspired by a true story from 20 years ago which took place in Leixlip, Co Kildare, but here set in 1982 in  Dublin.

Alerted by their niece who hadn’t been able to contact them, Father Timoney arrives at the house belonging to the Misses MacNamara. Using a spare key, because the church had a copy of parishioners keys,  he enters the property to discover the two bodies. It is clear they had been dead for a while.

As far as the police hierarchy are concerned the two sisters had voluntarily starved themselves to death and there were no suspicious circumstances to warrant more than a cursory investigation. DI Vincent Swan is not so sure. Although the sisters were devout Catholics and this appears to be a religious act, he is convinced that there is something more to the deaths.  Despite having other problems to deal with he carries on his own investigations, with the sometimes help of Detective Garda Gina Considine, herself struggling to find her rightful place within the male dominated force. 

The MacNamaras’ surviving sister Francesca, flies over from the US, following their deaths. She’s an actress, once a big star but now down to her last few dollars and relying on the charity of friends which is wearing a bit thin. Although she is grieving for her sisters, she seems more interested in any inheritance which may solve her financial woes.

This is very much a slow paced story and deliberately so; it’s a character based crime thriller that throws into the spotlight the power of the Catholic church within a community.  It picks up rather more more pace as we head towards the denouement where even more shocking revelations are in store.

I didn’t realise until after reading that it’s actually the second book to feature Vincent Swan.  A Famished Heart is apparently the beginning of a trilogy so there will be more of Swan and Considine to come.

A Famished Heart is a disturbing read with an overriding darkness to the story but the descriptive writing, the tight and complex plotting and the well developed characters make this a powerful read to add to your bookshelf.


Nicola White won the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2008 and in 2012 was Leverhulme Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. Her novel The Rosary Garden won the Dundee International Book Prize, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, and selected as one of the four best debuts by Val McDermid at Harrogate. She grew up in Dublin and New York, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands.

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