Thursday, July 27, 2006

Murder in Ireland

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"Haunted Ground" by Erin Hart is set in Ireland, so good luck pronouncing the names and places.

A woman's head is found in a peat bog and the authorities call in Cormac Maguire, an Archeologist, to determine her age. He, in turn, asks Pathologist Nora Gavin to aid with the forensics. Nora is an American who is temporarily in Ireland, trying to come to terms with the murder of her sister, and her belief that her brother-in-law was the culprit. This is why she is the way she is. Emotional, doncha know.

At first, there is some suspicion that the head might have belonged to the wife of Hugh Osborne, a local landowner, whose wife and son had gone missing two and a half years earlier. It was quickly determined, though, that the head in the peat bog died in th 1650s, and her body plus that of a baby turn up eventually.

Cormac and Nora quickly become enmeshed in both mysteries. Osborne and his down-on-her luck crazy sister Lucy and her son, Jeremy all live at Bracklyn house. Lucy and Jeremy are pretty creepy characters, and help give the book a gothic tone, even though it is set in modern times.

Crazy Lucy kind of floats around Bracklyn House, trying to stay out of the way, and, at the same time, running interference for teenaged Jeremy. Jeremy drinks a lot and steals candles from the local Catholic Church, which he uses to light the old tower (and don't we always have to have a spooky old tower?), and where he skins animals, draws their bones, and plays with the crows that have nested there. (shiver)

Cormac and Nora manage to solve both mysteries, and still have time to fall in love. They do not solve the mystery of Nora's sister, and thank goodness for that. It would have too much of a stretch to expect us to believe that. Besides, that's for another book, no doubt.

This book won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and she followed it up with Lake of Sorrows, again featuring Nora and Cormac bogged down in the same old peat.

It wasn't scary enough to make me jump out of my shoes, but it was compelling and I'll read more of her books. If you like tales of Gothic Suspense, mixed with modern forensics, this book is for you.


saz said...

I like almost all of it except the "head" thing and skinning animals. I'm a little squeamish if it's too realistic. Think that's why I like the you consider this one a cozy?

Betty said...

Saz: No, this one isn't a cozy. But, you won't be too turned off by the head thing and skinned animals. She only mentions the animals once - I didn't find it awful, but then, I loved "Jaws". Heheh

Kell said...

Now, this is my kind of book!

This does seem a bit different for you, although you do like a little gothic in your mysteries. And set in Ireland, that's good, too.

Kell said...

BTW, I think your reviews just get better and better!

Betty said...

Thank you, Kell. xxxooo