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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Only the Children

Irish Crime Fiction

Series: DI Tessa Burns Book #2

Narrator: Melanie MacHugh

Hachette UK-Bookouture Audio

ISBN: 9781803147222

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: 02/12/2024

Format: Audio & e-book

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

The little girl stares up at Tessa, trembling so hard her whole body shakes. Her brothers stand clutching her hands, both pale with shock. ‘They told us not to speak,’ she finally whispers. But the terror in her tear-filled eyes tells Tessa all she needs to know…

When a cargo ship runs aground off the Irish coast, the police are horrified to find the captain dead at the helm, the crew missing, and three little red-haired children, terrified but unharmed, locked in the galley kitchen. As an expert detective running a child-centred taskforce, Detective Tessa Burns is called in to lead the case.

Despite Tessa’s best efforts, the children won’t reveal a thing – not even their own names. Slowly gaining their trust, Tessa uncovers a deadly secret about their past – and the mystery of their missing parents’ whereabouts – that turns everything she thought she knew on its head.

But just as it seems she’s cracked the case, Tessa’s team is attacked one dark night, and the youngest boy is kidnapped yet again. It’s clear the children are still in terrible danger. And when another senseless killing sends shockwaves through her team, Tessa realises the murderer is someone much closer to home than they could have ever imagined. Will she be able to uncover the truth in time, or will it be too late for her, and, most devastating of all, for the children…?

A totally unputdownable Irish police procedural with jaw-dropping twists. Perfect for fans of Patricia Gibney, Lisa Regan and Angela Marsons.

My Review

Irish master storyteller S.A. Dunphy returns following Little Witness with his famous cop procedural series (Tessa Burns #1) with his latest, ONLY THE CHILDREN (Tessa Burns #2). Tessa and her team are back with another intense case when three abducted children are discovered on an abandoned cargo ship in this gripping, emotional, and heart-stopping Irish crime suspense thriller.

Di Tessa Burns, Maggie, Danny, and Pavlov (Maggie's dog), whom we met, fell in love with, and invested in (first book), return in this installment to solve another complex case surrounding children— that puts them all in harm's way.

A cargo ship, The Dolphin, runs aground off the Wexford coast of Ballymoney Beach and is discovered. Tess heads up the task force and calls in her team due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the discovery.

All crew members are missing, and the captain (throat cut) is dead. Three young red-headed children were found locked in a storage room. The kids are scared and not speaking, which is the case when, most likely, they are threatened not to.

It is Tessa and her team's job to earn trust and make the children feel safe and comfortable enough to tell them everything about what they know since it is critical information and timely; however, at the same time, being sensitive and caring for their needs and trauma.

With a twisting plot and action-filled suspense, the standoff at Kaats Strand with Kate and O'Dowd was filled with tension and INTENSE. I particularly enjoyed hearing POV from the children, love Tessa and her tenacity, and delighted she has met a chief officer in the Irish coastguard for a new romantic love interest —both being in law enforcement with an understanding of long-distance relationships and mutual respect of their work and time.

Wow! LITTLE CHILDREN is a complex, riveting, multi-layered Irish crime suspense novel with an unstoppable team fighting for the survival of the Bolger children and themselves, not knowing whom to trust while being one step ahead of the criminals in this game of survival. Full of emotion, rich in detail, and intense psychologically.

Highly charged topics, from human and child and people trafficking (modern slave industry), abuse, politics, criminals, greed, Irish gangs, threats, attacks, and murder, all the while they are trying to protect the young lives—physically, mentally, and psychologically.

Fast-paced action and thrills, an unstoppable team, shocking mystery and suspense, intense and remarkable detective work! A well-written crime novel and I cannot wait until the next book in this fascinating series. We get a teaser, and it appears the team is headed to Cork next.

THE AUTHOR: What sets this book and the series apart from all the rest is the Author! His writing, vast knowledge of children, background, and expertise with highly charged topics while written with compassion and sensitivity.

His other fascinating topics are intriguing and meticulously researched, with further reading resources included. His knowledge of ships and his documentaries are fascinating. In addition, he is an expert in the areas he writes about, and his settings are vivid and breathtaking (he references all the actual settings and locations as accurate and knows them well).

Also, his well-developed characters come alive on the page and are highly relatable (personally & professionally). I particularly find the well-written Author's notes and Acknowledgments appealing, with the inspiration behind the novels and his journey heartfelt. I appreciate his sharing of experiences, which further enhances the reading experience with readers. Thank you for writing this story through divorce, COVID, and all the challenges! Your attention to detail does not go unnoticed. Congrats, another hit.

I look forward to reading Dunphy's original audio-true-crime book, The Bad Place—He references information, statistics, and accounts from survivors, among others.

My second book by the author, and I look forward to reading more of his backlist. Thank you, Bookouture and NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an early review copy.

Blog review posted @

@JudthDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars

Pub Date: Feb 12, 2024

Little Witness DI Tessa Burnes #1

About the Author

Childcare expert, author, teacher, journalist, broadcaster, musician, nerd, husband, Dad, Grandad.

Shane Dunphy (S. A. Dunphy) was born in Brighton in 1973, but grew up in Ireland, where he has spent most of his life. A child protection worker for 15 years, he is the number one bestselling author of 20 books. His first nine titles dealt with his time on the frontline of social care work, and include the number one bestseller Wednesday’s Child. His bestselling series of crime novels (written under the name S. A. Dunphy) feature the emotionally damaged criminologist David Dunnigan. Stories From the Margins, his series of True Crime books written for Audible, has been critically acclaimed as well as being an audio-bestseller. He has also ghost written two biographies. Writing as S. A. Dunphy his exciting new series of crime novels, set in Ireland, feature Criminal Behaviourist Jessie Boyle and detective Seamus Keneally.

Author website:

Facebook: Shane Dunphy - S. A. Dunphy

Instagram: shanewritesbooks

Twitter: @dunphyshane1

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