Spoiler Alert! This review contains spoilers. So if you haven’t listened to West Cork yet and are intending to do so - stop reading now!
Before we continue our journey back in time in the company of journalists Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde, I’d just like to thank everyone who got in touch with me about last week’s review of episode 1.
It has been fascinating to watch this series gaining traction across the globe again and to be able to witness the online audience reaction in real time - I feel I really missed a trick when it was originally broadcast.
Despite the murder it’s based on happening nearly 25 years ago, and the podcast series being three years old, there appears to be an insatiable interest in the subject.
Just last week we ran a story online concerning the chief suspect’s love life that quickly became the most-read southernstar.ie article of 2021 within hours of publishing.
This week also saw the release of the trailer for the new Jim Sheridan documentary ‘Murder at the Cottage’ which is set for release on Sky Crime sometime this year - we'll have more on this in Thursday's Southern Star.
People can’t get enough of this story and I can’t quite put my finger on why but hopefully after writing 13 of these reviews I’ll have some idea!
Now, back to West Cork.
Episode 2: The Back of Beyond
Episode two opens with a news reader reporting on the murder in realtime.
Gardaí are ‘treating as suspicious the death of a woman whose body has been found in a remote area near Schull.’
Remote doesn’t do the area justice. But the title of the episode nails it.
Toormore, for anyone who has ever visited, really is the back of beyond.
I know I spent the first half of the first review praising the episode’s title (Blow-ins) as well but credit where it’s due. It’s a titles business.
Our hosts first journey to Toormore and the scene of the murder is detailed by Jennifer in the opening moments of episode two.
She describes the reticence of locals in giving precise directions for fear of ‘ghoulish tourists’ hoping to visit the crime scene and perhaps take selfies.
I feel both embarrassed and sickly when hearing this line.
I have been one of these ‘ghoulish tourists’, having gone in search of Sophie’s home on the way back to Skibbereen from a trip to Mizen Head.
Blame could be laid at the feet of my other half who encouraged this act of murder tourism but I was in the driver’s seat at the time so will accept that I must now live with the label ‘ghoulish tourist’ forever more.
My self-loathing is quickly replaced however by one of the most shocking moments I have ever experienced from any form of media.
The introduction of the local reporter who covered the case as Jennifer and Sam’s guide makes the Keyser Söze reveal in The Usual Suspects seem tame by comparison.
We’re only three minutes into episode two of 13 and I’ve never felt more alive.
Disclaimer: This shock is probably only a shock if you have at least some prior knowledge of the case.
This is our first introduction to Ian Bailey, a former Fleet Street reporter who has agreed to direct Jennifer and Sam to Toormore and who seems happy to share his own theories as to what might have happened on the night Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered.
More on him later I’m sure.
It is during this second instalment of the series that we first hear details about just how brutal a murder this was.
Cruelty and viciousness are words used by retired detective Dermot Dwyer who worked on the case
‘You’d have to come to the conclusion even if you were never a policeman that this murder was carried out by somebody who lost it completely’.
The garda response to the murder has long been criticised both locally and nationally and the initial investigations are outlined brilliantly.
The biggest challenge facing the Gardaí at the time seems to have been the pre M7 & M8 drive from Dublin to Schull, for which I have some sympathy, but it’s hard not to get frustrated when listening back to how it was handled.
The delays in the technical experts reaching the scene. The refusal of local members of the force to accept the advice of detectives in moving the body when it was deemed too cold to ascertain a time of death.
Episode two packs so much in that when it finished I wondered how they were going to stretch this to 13 episodes.
But then I listened to episode three . . .
Our review of Episode 3: Sophie Buoniol will be available here next Monday.
If you’d like to get in touch with your own observations, theories or concerns about the West Cork Podcast you can email us at [email protected] or contact me directly on Twitter or Instagram @jayburgkk.
Read the review of Episode 1: Blow-ins here.