THE VANISHING TRIANGLE

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Between 1993 and 1998, eight women disappeared 80 miles outside Dublin in a “safe and welcoming country where bad things don’t really happen.” Exploring these disappearances, all of which took place during the author’s adolescence in Northern Ireland, McGowan recalls that no one ever discussed these missing person cases. She only stumbled upon them when she was doing research for her own crime fiction almost two decades later. In 2000, when a 24-year-old woman was found murdered near Dublin “in a populated area and in broad daylight,” McGowan felt compelled to investigate crimes that occurred years before. She discovered the women were a heterogenous group with no connection to each other. Yet those she talked to about them almost invariably asked if they were involved in sex work. “Think about what it means, that question—that we expect a certain type of woman to go missing, to be murdered,” she writes.” While police had worked on the cases for three years, the author discovered that in one case, it took them three days to start looking for the missing woman. She also learned that one woman who had barely escaped from a brutal rape and attempted murder in Dublin’s “vanishing triangle” saw her attacker, a husband and father others considered “a decent man,” released from prison five years before the end of his sentence. McGowan surmises that the “savagery and speed” of the ambush suggested a man who knew what he was doing. Yet he was never investigated further for possible connection to the eight disappearances. Readable and thought-provoking, this book reveals that despite efforts at modernization and liberalization, Irish systems of justice and power remain as patriarchal as they are complicit in maintaining a centuries-old culture of silence, suppression, and misogyny.

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