The Rule Book

The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin, ISBN 978-1-906710-57-6

April in the Wicklow mountains and a young woman is found dead, seemingly sacrificed. Accompanying her body is Chapter One of The Rule Book – a self-help guide for prospective serial killers. The case is assigned to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and headed up by Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy. Since the recent death of his wife, McEvoy is a shadow of his former self – two stones lighter with a wardrobe of ill fitting suits, struggling to quit the cigarettes that killed his wife, and still getting used to being a single parent. Less than twenty four hours later a second murder is committed. Self-claiming the title ‘The Raven’, the killer starts to taunt the police and the media. When the third body is discovered it is clear that The Raven intends to slaughter one victim each day until The Rule Book is published in full. With the pressure from his superiors, the press, and politicians rising, McEvoy stumbles after a killer that is seemingly several steps ahead.

Is The Rule Book as definitive as The Raven claims?


"This book is the best I can ever recall reading in the way it depicts the wretched desperation that the police must experience in the face of something as truly awful as people being randomly and brutally killed and being unable to wade through the morass of evidence in time to save lives. … The Rule Book really gave me a sense of how hideous it must be to know people are relying on you for their safety but despite the fact you’re working all hours and trying your best you just can’t get the right answers in time. … [McEvoy] is a fantastic character: far from perfect but never giving up despite provocation and I can’t be the only one who just wanted to give the man a hug. I was also pleased to find The Rule Book has a very solid sense of its location. … From the iconic picture of the statue of Big Jim Larkin in Dublin’s city centre on the cover to the use of local language, particularly in dialogue, to descriptions of an interesting variety of locations in and around the city this is a very Irish book. …On one level this is a ripping crime fiction yarn which would be pleasing enough but there’s more to it than that. " Reactions to Reading

"One of the most unusual crime novels to come out of Ireland in recent times. A gripping thriller with characters that ring true coupled with images and acts that would leave even Hannibal Lecter silent! In particular, the novel portrays hard working, decent Gardai, deeply committed to solving crimes in the community.  There are more twists than the red cow roundabout, but you will not lose the plot in this clever and unusual crime novel." Joe Duffy, RTE

"The Rule Book puts Rob Kitchin on the Irish Crime map. It's gripping, gruesome, and a hell of a fun puzzle. It shows careful research and digs deep into an interesting character. I was kept guessing until the end, desperately hoping that this novel would not go the crappy Hollywood route. There is a town called Hollywood in Ireland, but this serial killer's spree gives it a wide berth." Critical Mick

"I for one am a big fan of the police procedural as a genre, and Kitchin gives us an excellent version, emphasizing not the lurid crimes committed by the serial killer but the sometimes plodding pursuit of the killer in the detectives' meticulous methodology ... The story is tight indeed, moving along at an electric pace that never lets up. Kitchin's skill in maintaining that pace as well as the naturalism of the characters and setting is quite impressive in a first novel." International Noir

"Rob Kitchin has shown there is still some life in the serial killer theme if the main investigating officer and the villain can capture your attention. Policeman Colm McEvoy is a sympathetic character who has so many problems to face both personal and professional that you feel for him and can identify with the stress he is under. … This was a very promising first crime novel and I hope Rob can take enough time off from his day job to produce a sequel."  Crime Scraps

"After the first day I was entangled in the web and forgot all about my headache and my runny nose. In the beginning I feared that the combination of serial killer plus male writer might turn into a hard-boiled, graphic story, but in the best traditions of British crime fiction the focus stays with the police work and the increasingly personal battle between McEvoy and the killer. And Colm McEvoy - the very human but frustrated copper and father - is one of those characters you really want to meet again – the sooner the better! " DJs Krimiblog

" Choosing a serial killer story for your first crime fiction novel is a bold move. It is too easy for stories in this genre for the focus become one of shocking the reader with graphic gore. So I was very pleased to see that Kitchin has written a very good police procedural that features a serial killer. ... The way the clues are constructed and what the police do with them is clever, unique even, and adds to the enjoyment of the story. Colm McEvoy is sympathetic and engaging character. ... I liked the way Kitchin builds the tension and shows how the responsibility wears on McEvoy. ... The author has also developed a good cast of supporting characters. ... Kitchin has the foundation for a good series and I closed the book wishing that there already was a sequel available. I enjoyed The Rule Book and the story, characters, and writing style make it one I would recommend to readers who like police procedurals and can handle some graphic gore." Mack Captures Crime

"Two characters lured me deeper and deeper into this book: The Raven, a serial killer who's completely convinced of his own brilliance, and Colm McEvoy. The sole maternal bone in my body is microscopic in size, but somehow Kitchin made me want to mother the detective superintendent. ... I found the investigation compelling with a minimal amount of gore. Although I was quite good at seeing which leads McEvoy needed to follow, I was no good at identifying The Raven until just a few pages before the unmasking. With the storyline and pacing - and especially with the character of McEvoy - I'm hoping that The Rule Book is the first in a series featuring the detective superintendent. " Kittling Books

"This is a police procedural which focuses mainly in the daily work of the crime investigators, their internal quarrels, their difficult relationship with the media, the political implications of the case, the personal history of the main character topped up with a few references to Ireland and its history which I found very interesting. It has some great secondary characters like the state pathologist Professor Elaine Jone and a Scottish profiler Kathy Jacobs. And both, Charlie Deegan an ambitious detective and Detective Chief Superintended Tony Bishop, are used effectively to create some tension. Actually I very much enjoyed reading this clever and credible book. It has a real and interesting main character. The plot is nicely developed and it keeps my interest until the last page. A very entertaining reading. I look forward to read his next book where I expect to meet some of this characters again. " The Game's Afoot 

This was a very ambitious first novel. So much action occurs in just 12 days, so much blood is shed, and from a writer's point of view, so many threads to be tracked, so many characters to be fleshed out. And for me, this is the best novel I've read so far this year. ... An excellent read, one you must add to your list.  Mysteries in Paradise

The Rule Book is an intricately plotted police procedural set in and around Dublin, in the atmosphere of impending social and political failure that eventually led to the Celtic Tiger having its head unceremoniously expelled from its ass by the 2008 banking crisis.  Kitchin dissects an Ireland where men who get into positions of power--shown here in the shape of the country's police force, but not limited to them--suffer from a lack of expertise in a field they are supposed to master; spend an inordinate amount of time trying to please the media; and pay more attention to form than substance. People in authority refuse to shoulder the responsibility that should be the corollary of their well-paying jobs; push important decisions down the chain of command until they find the guy who will take the fall; plan every action in the way that will best cover their asses, and, most tellingly of all, have no idea of what needs to be done to thwart sophisticated enemies, whether they be serial killers, (or, by extension), financial whizz-kids, who are left free to run rings around the stately, plump, prevaricating authorities.  Through the prism of the Irish police force, the novel depicts a whole country that doesn't have the smarts to understand any of the challenges it has brought on itself by moving away from a rustic set of values towards items of interest dear to the gutter press: sensationalism, human weakness, the wreckage resulting from the availability of cheap and plentiful booze and drugs and the rivers of teenage vomit and drunken violence running through Dublin's O'Connell Street late on a Saturday night.  Rob Kitchin leaves the reader with the feeling that what he or she has understood is pretty bad, but worse is still to come. The Rule Book is a page-turner and will give any discerning reader of crime fiction extremely good value for his or her money.  John J Gaynard