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Reviews of Starving Men

"A masterfully written, complex thriller about one man’s obsession with righting the wrongs of the past."

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10

Originality: 10 out of 10

Prose: 10 out of 10

Character/Execution: 9 out of 10

Overall: 9.50 out of 10


Plot: Finkielman’s novel is fast paced and meticulously plotted. A wealth of historical research supports the plot and makes the book’s events feel fresh and believable.

Prose/Style: The prose here is haunting and poetic. Told from several perspectives, Finkielman’s story skillfully alternates narrators and time periods while delivering a captivating narrative.

Originality: Readers will enjoy this psychological thriller set against the horrors and aftermath of the Irish Famine. Finkielman’s haunting prose and excellent use of tension set the novel apart.

Character Development: The characters in Starving Men are diverse and well-drawn. Readers will be fascinated by protagonist Michael Gleeson, a respected psychiatrist who masterminds several murders, as retribution for historical atrocities committed against the Irish. The secondary characters are distinct and serve the story well.


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"An absorbing tale, brimming with politics, historical details, and mystery."

In this debut thriller, a Dublin-based psychiatrist enlists a professional killer to exact long-awaited revenge on behalf of his country.

Dr. Michael Gleeson, whose father was an active member of the Irish Republican Army, counsels individuals with ties to the decommissioned IRA. His latest patient is Turlough O’Sullivan, an admitted killer suffering from problems like OCD. Michael offers Turlough a paying gig: find and kill John Bingham, aka Lord Lucan, who fled London decades ago under suspicion of murdering his wife and a nanny. Michael’s motive is surprising: One of Lord Lucan’s ancestors evicted citizens from their homes during Ireland’s Great Famine. Michael has other targets for Turlough as well—descendants of powerful men whose actions resulted in the deaths of well over a million Irish people.

Over in London, Irish police detective Maggie O’Malley, on temporary assignment to Scotland Yard, investigates Lord Lucan’s murder. When she connects three recent homicides, she may discover a familial link to Michael. But it may be worse for Michael if the “organization” he works for makes the same connection, as the murders would likely derail attempts at peace in Northern Ireland. Complicating matters even further is Michael’s hit list, still with some names not crossed off.

Finkielman’s novel is rich in history, particularly specifics about Northern Ireland’s political unrest. Characters from that country are largely sympathetic, their ancestors having endured many atrocities. But the author certainly doesn’t champion the protagonist’s deeds. Enhancing the tale is a rock-solid murder mystery. As Lord Lucan left behind notes professing his innocence, Maggie scrutinizes the unsolved crime, which pushes her closer to Michael. This whodunit has a discernible, enthralling narrative arc that reaches a gratifying resolution before the end. And though the story is more character-driven than action-oriented, Finkielman’s pithy writing gives it an unwavering momentum.

"Psychology and history combine to create a riveting and engrossing read."
In S.E. Finkielman's Starving Men, Dr. Michael Gleeson had lived through difficult and hard times and had the dark memories to prove it. He recalled many of the hardships and the names of those who forced difficult times upon Ireland. When his new patient, Turlough O'Sullivan, an employee of a decommissioned IRA associate, creates an undeniable bond between them, Michael decides to ask for this murderer's aid in bringing justice to people he never knew but whose names had been remembered by history, carved in blood and suffering. However, one cannot take such actions and expect to remain unnoticed. Detective Margaret 'Maggie' O'Malley becomes as obsessed with this case as she is with obtaining historical justice. Will she close in on the killer, or will he remain hidden in the shadows, executing justice in the name of his homeland? 

S.E. Finkielman's Starving Men is a gripping crime thriller set mainly between London and Dublin. The writing style gives a great atmosphere of both places. I especially enjoyed how we delved into the main character's memories and knowledge to uncover the consequences of past historical horrors, and how we even relived some of the horrors experienced during and after the time of The Great Hunger through snippets from other people and saw how their repercussions continued for countless years to come. The smooth first-person narrative from Michael's perspective gives readers an instant connection to him; he is well respected in his field but harbors a grudge he cannot release. For me this book was as educational as it was entertaining, bringing to light atrocities and a history I was never taught in school. The characters are well-defined and realistic and added a believable spin to the unfolding plot. A murder mystery like no other, with not only historical motives but an engaging plot that in places put me in mind of Red Dragon. Psychology and history combine to create a riveting and engrossing read.
"This is exactly what I expect to feel when I read a thriller."

Starving Men by S.E. Finkielman is a thriller about a killer on the loose and a madman controlling him. Michael is a successful psychiatrist who counsels people with a connection to the Irish Republican Army one way or another. He thought this would be his contribution to the IRA, but that all changed when his latest patient came for help. Turlough O’Sullivan may seem like a simple man, but he is a murderer. He came to Michael to seek help for his OCD, but Michael has a job for him. Michael wants Turlough to kill just a few men to pay for the sins of their ancestors. But Turlough has to be discreet and be able to do it all without getting caught. Sadly, for them, the murders have caught the attention of Irish police detective Maggie O’Malley who will stop at nothing until she gets the sick person behind these murders. What will happen in this cat and mouse game?

Starving Men by S.E. Finkielman is rich in history and shows how deep the wounds can run. Michael, Maggie, and Turlough are three very different characters with very different lives and each of them gets an opportunity to share their story with readers. I enjoyed how the author provided ample page space to all three of them for the reader to become invested in their background stories. I loved the chase and Maggie’s drive to find who was killing these people in cold blood. The author described Turlough's mental state very clearly, giving just enough information for the reader to draw their own conclusions and feel trapped in his mind. Michael, on the other hand, is a character that I loved to hate. He is driven mad by his obsession and he will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. All three of them show a different angle to the picture and each angle completes the story. The narrative is smooth, the story flows seamlessly and the atmosphere of the setting gave me chills. This is exactly what I expect to feel when I read a thriller.

"Starving Men is a tale of serial murder. S.E. Finkielman deftly makes of it a tale of justice."
A most rare personal comment from me before further reviewing Starving Men by S.E. Finkielman. Man, can the Irish tell a story! As subtle as English Brits, (not redundant here), but somehow more ruthless and poetic. Bloodless, yet emotionally overwhelming. Proven once again by this deeply talented author of a ruthless and poetic, bloodless and emotional mystery/thriller, itself connected inextricably to the recognizably potent history of famine, troubles, and vengeful murder. Subtle, too, in masterful understatements and allusions; never underestimating the intelligence of readers. A story that bowls one over with the power of delayed impact. One cannot write well enough to properly praise this writing.

Starving Men is a tale of serial murder. S.E. Finkielman deftly makes of it a tale of justice. Revisiting the historical past, not with the objective dryness of a historian but the ardor of an unwilling co-participant, the author co-opts the utterly captive reader into an emotional co-conspiracy. The Doolough Walk (1849) alone will chill your very soul. One would openly applaud the admittedly twisted “protagonist” were it not for the obvious diminishment of one’s own self-image in the process. One does not applaud serial killing. Except in secret. But the secrets held prisoner by all the characters in this roadrunner of a novel demand even an inequitable accounting. Or, at least an outing. And thus, with the inevitability of apocalypse and the perverse eagerness of defeat, the reader is overtly seduced and, also thus, kept reading on toward the inevitable climax. Strained. Emotionally wrought. Satisfied.
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