Reviewed By: Woodstock - RAM
Amazon US PB Amazon US HC Amazon Canada PB Amazon Canada HC
Class/Genre: Mystery Thriller
This is a very impressive debut novel, set in Ireland and combining present day police work on a "cold case" with archaeology and forensic pathology. Although the author has several plot threads running at once, nothing gets confusing to the reader. She does a very nice job indeed of pulling strands of Irish history into the narration, without losing the "track" of the main stories while enhancing our understanding of the local traditions which impact the current events .
Irish families living in rural areas still have the legal right to cut slabs of peat from the various bogs, to be used as fuel. But since cutting the peat creates damage to the environmental makeup, the right to cut is limited by history of property ownership and other semi legal factors. A resident cutting his legal share of peat uncovers the grisly remains of a red headed woman. The character of peat bogs sometimes acts as a unique preservative, meaning that items several hundred years old appear to be completely untouched by time.
Investigators are called, and one even more grisly fact becomes clear - only her head has been buried in the bog, the rest of her body is nowhere nearby. The word spreads through the local community and the husband of a woman who went missing about two years earlier rushes to the scene, and in addition to confronting the unearthed head, realizes once again that he still does not know what happened to his wife.
The husband's arrival on the scene brings the three main characters into acquaintance with one another. A local policeman is still striving to determine what happened to the missing local woman. Two university researchers from Dublin investigate the significance of the young woman's head. Eventually they learn that she died in the 17th century. The three main characters share a love of traditional music and songs, and turn to the oral historians of the area to investigate who the mysterious head was in life. Their work on this issue begins to expand the clues about the missing local woman, and the policeman enters a kind of reciprocity with them.
Hart has written a seeming anomaly - a historical mystery in which the protagonists are present day policemen and university researchers. She is off to an excellent start with this debut novel, and I'll be delighted to pick up her next book!
Woodstock - RAM
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