Stuart Neville’s 5th and 6th Belfast novels center around DCI Serena Flanagan. In Those We Left Behind, Flanagan flashes back to an old case years earlier, a bloody massacre that left a foster father dead and the younger of two brothers the family had taken in confessing to the killing.

Now this younger brother, Ciaran Devine, is out of prison, and back in her radar. With his older brother, Thomas, out for a year already and working in a kitchen, Flanagan knows the brothers have kept a secret for all of their time in prison.

There’s an almost unnatural attachment between the brothers, one that leads to renewed violence. Ciaran’s probation officer is a young woman with good instincts, and she brings her fears to Flanagan’s attention, just as a series of brutal attacks start.

How culpable is Ciaran? Who is committing these crimes and can they be traced to the brothers? It’s a tough situation, especially when these brothers cost Flanagan time away from her own family and impact her strained marriage.

When the fear enters her own home, Flanagan will do anything to protect those she loves. Compelling and creepy.

In So Say The Fallen, Flanagan is trying to salvage her marriage and her family when she’s called to the site of an apparent suicide. The loss of his legs and extensive burns suffered in a traffic accident have left Harry Carrick, owner of a car dealership empire, at the mercy and care of his wife. It’s not a surprise when he decides to take an overdose of his pain medicine.

But two things are at odds to Flanagan: the man’s apparent strong faith, and the family photos arranged on his night stand that are turned away from his view. It’s enough for her to question his widow, Roberta, already suffering the loss of the couple’s only child a few year’s earlier in a tragic drowning accident. Not everyone appreciates Flanagan’s viewpoint.

Roberta’s stalwart friend and defender is the Reverend McKay, a man who’s own faith has been under examination. With Flanagan’s suspicions aroused, she decides to pursue an investigation to assure that Harry Carrick really did take his own life. Her tenacity is one of her strongest characteristics, as is her determination to get to the truth.

A spooling out of the plot leads to a climax with a depth of betrayal by one of the characters that leads Flanagan to question everything she understands about relationships.

Both books are well-plotted and smack of the weary realism of real investigative work, while expounding the life force such a job takes, and how it impacts the detective’s family. These are terrific police procedurals that will please any reader. Neville gets inside his character’s heads with a mix of deep chill and at times great compassion. Highly recommended.