Review: Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

Title: Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan
Frankie Sheehan Series Book One
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 301 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program


Olivia Kiernan’s tautly written debut novel immerses readers in a chilling murder case . . . and the tantalizing, enigmatic victim at the center of it all.

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.


Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan is an enthralling mystery set in Dublin. This first novel in the Frankie Sheehan series is a clever police procedural with marvelous a cast of characters.

Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan’s first case when she returns to work following a work-related injury appears to be a suicide but is, in fact, murder. Eleanor Costello is a microbiologist and guest lecturer at a nearby college and her teaching assistant Lorcan Murphy is definitely shaken by the news of her death. Interestingly enough, Eleanor’s husband Peter is missing which makes him Frankie’s prime suspect. The investigation is frustratingly slow paced since there is little evidence but the discovery of another victim, Amy Keegan, breathes new life into the case.  Will Frankie and her team catch the killer before he or she strikes again?

Frankie is a tenacious investigator with keen instincts which has contributed to her swift rise through the ranks. Although she has mostly recovered from her physical injuries, she does suffer from PTSD.  She has an excellent working relationship with Assistant Commissioner Jack Clancy and her partner on the case, Detective Baz Harwood.

The investigation into Eleanor’s murder reveals a few surprising details that are rather perplexing. What is the significance of the Prussian blue paint on the victim’s body? Where is Peter and does his disappearance have any connection to his wife’s murder? Is he responsible for some of the healed injuries that are discovered during Eleanor’s autopsy? What are Eleanor and Peter doing on the Dark Web? Is Lorcan being completely honest during his interviews? And if not, why? And last, but not least, why can Frankie not shake the troubling feeling that the current murders are somehow linked to a prior case?

Although initially a little slow paced, Close to Breathe is an engrossing mystery. Frankie Sheehan is an outstanding lead protagonist whose dedication to her job sometimes leads to impetuous decisions that put her in jeopardy. Baz is a fantastic partner who is extremely supportive even when he does not agree with Frankie. The investigation is fascinating and delves into the murky world of the Dark Web and the BDSM community. Olivia Kiernan brings the novel to a twist-filled and exciting conclusion. Fans of the genre are sure to enjoy this first installment in the Frankie Sheehan series.

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Dutton, Frankie Sheehan Series, Mystery, Olivia Kiernan, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Too Close to Breathe

One Response to Review: Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

  1. Timitra

    Thanks Kathy for the review