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False Mermaid Hardcover – March 2, 2010

92 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the Nora Gavin Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It’s been a long wait since Hart’s Lake of Sorrows (2004), the follow-up to her outstanding debut, Haunted Ground (2003), which introduced Nora Gavin, the American forensic pathologist who works in Ireland with archaeologist Cormac Maguire. The novel begins with Nora returning to Minneapolis, hoping to solve at long last the murder of her sister, Triona. Convinced that Triona was killed by her husband, Peter, but unable to prove it, Nora retreated to Ireland and began a new life. But now Peter is returning to Minneapolis, and Nora feels she must tackle the unsolved crime before he has a chance to wreak more havoc on her family, especially Triona’s daughter, 11-year-old Elizabeth. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, Cormac becomes ensnared in another long-standing mystery, this one concerning the century-old disappearance of a woman believed to be a selkie a (mermaid who becomes human when she loses her sealskin). The two plot elements are skillfully combined through the feminist view of the selkie’s plight: a woman torn between loyalty to her human family and the lingering need for a return to the independence of the sea. Series writers attempting to send their protagonists on road trips often invite missteps, but Hart lands firmly on her feet by intermingling the Minneapolis scenes with the Ireland subplot and by bringing both together for the finale. And, as always, the novel is rich in human drama, complex relationships, and vivid local color. Few writers combine as seamlessly as Hart does the subtlety, lyrical language, and melancholy of literary fiction with the pulse-pounding suspense of the best thrillers. --Bill Ott


“Rich with atmosphere and Irish legend, this exceptionally crafted story of murder, family secrets, and redemption is a welcome addition to Hart's suspenseful series.” --Library Journal, starred

“Evocative descriptions …captivating characters… [and] lush romanticism. The story races to a breathless confrontation.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Few writers combine as seamlessly as Hart does the subtlety, lyrical language, and melancholy of literary fiction with the pulse-pounding suspense of the best thrillers.” --Booklist, starred

“A haunting, eerie page-turner that combines a wealth of Irish mythology...with archeology and the compelling forensic details of several linked murders, all set against gorgeously rendered settings.”

--Irish America


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416563768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416563761
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ERIN HART introduced pathologist Nora Gavin in one of the most lauded mystery debuts of 2003: HAUNTED GROUND was a Book Sense 76 Pick, a winner of the Friends of American Writers Award, a winner of the Romantic Times Best First Mystery Award, and a nominee for the Anthony Award and the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and Best First Mystery, respectively. Her second novel in the series, LAKE OF SORROWS, was shortlisted for a 2004 Minnesota Book Award. The third in the series, FALSE MERMAID (March 2010) was named one of the top 100 crime novels of the decade, and #4, THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN (March 2013), was again a Minnesota Book Award finalist. A Minnesota theater critic, former communications director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, and a founder of the Twin Cities Irish Music & Dance Association, Erin Hart received an M.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in theater from Saint Olaf College. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, Irish button accordion legend Paddy O'Brien, and makes frequent visits to Ireland, carrying out essential research in bogs, cow pastures, castles, and pubs. Visit her website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I became a fan of Erin Hart's writing after reading Haunted Ground: A Novel which had as its central character American forensic pathologist Nora Gavin, and the story in Haunted Ground was set in Ireland, centering around the mystery of a decapitated head belonging to a flame-haired lass nicknamed the Cailin Rua found in a peat bog. Together with Irish archaeologist Cormac Macguire, the pair attempt to solve the mystery, whilst finding themselves involved in another mystery of a missing mother and son. Then in Lake of Sorrows: A Novel, Nora and Cormac are back, once again investigating bodies found in the Irish peat bogs.

In "False Mermaid", Nora returns to the United States, having come to the realization that she can only find peace of mind once she resolves what actually happened to her younger sister, Triona, who was found murdered in St. Paul a couple of years back. Nora is convinced that it was Triona's husband, Peter Hallett, who is responsible, though she needs to find compelling evidence. Peter has since moved on and remarried Miranda Staunton, the sister of Nora's ex-fiance. Nora is particularly concerned about the welfare of her young niece, 11-year-old Elizabeth. Some people from Nora's past are also featured here such as police detective Frank Cordova who still has a thing for Nora.

Back in Ireland, Cormac hopes to be together with Nora, but his father's illness proves a strong deterrent, and then he gets intrigued by studies of Irish folklore conducted by a female acquaintance, Roz.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By GrandmaBlondie VINE VOICE on July 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is not brilliantly written. The prose isn't lovely or compelling, the characters seem 2-dimensional much of the time. However, I was camping when I read it, and it was good entertainment while lying in a hammock in the woods. I hadn't read the first novel with this character...gosh, it's been two weeks and I can't remember her name...and didn't feel like I needed to. I also didn't feel like I was all that interested in reading the next one. I got it free from Vine, so I wasn't too picky. Had I paid full price for a hard cover novel I would have felt ripped off.

There is one pretty ugly sex scene, the rest is PG-13, thriller, murder, lady investigator with lots of emotional baggage, a messed-up relationship, tension between her and her parents, a guy she doesn't like who is hitting on her, the usual stuff. As for the Ireland part of the story, it would have been good except that the author creates a character whose sole purpose in the book is to recount selkie legends to the main character (and us). Old murder, recent murder, it ha SUCH GREAT POTENTIAL, but was "just ok"
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By N. Arens on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the two books, Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows, prior to False Mermaid, and was glad to see more from Erin Hart. False Mermaid is another good example of solid mystery story-telling. The ending felt a little too tidy and some elements seemed contrived or sensational, but a worthwhile read for the return of complex characters and an enjoyable portrayal of Irish folklore and culture. The characters did not develop much further in this story, but I enjoyed the book. The resolution of the 'selkie' folklore subplot was unnecessary and unbelievable. Unfortunately this left me with a sour final impression of an otherwise entertaining read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Newell VINE VOICE on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this well-crafted and well-researched novel, Erin Hart stays on geographical territory familiar to her--- Minnesota and Ireland--- while spinning an intriguing murder mystery tale that incorporates Irish legend and language.

It seems that the heroine, Nora Gavin, had her sister brutally murdered a few years back. Suspicion fell heavily on her brother-in-law but nothing could be proven. Nora took it on herself to solve the case, but failed, and went off to Ireland to work for some while to get away from it all. But the unsolved crime would not let her rest, and now she is leaving her new boyfriend to return to Minnesota to work on the now-cold case once more.

Intertwined with the main story is a traditional Irish tale of the selkie, half-woman and half-seal, and an old death on the Irish coast. Each section or "book" of the novel is introduced with a quotation having to do with stories, myths, or the selkies themselves. And the solution to the story, and some of the climactic events, depend heavily upon these traditional tales, but to say more than this would spoil things. Perhaps, indeed, things depend a little too much, as I'll describe.

The writing is excellent, and the main character well-drawn. Although her obsessions are clear--- she must, must solve the case--- we sympathize with her readily. The supporting characters: a St. Paul detective, Nora's parents, her Irish boyfriend; all are good enough if perhaps not great. Nora's brief and regretted romantic involvement with the detective drags on the story a little and perhaps could have been skipped, and her romance with Cormac could have been a little less sterile in feeling. Her niece, Elizabeth, is a terrific depiction of a child who has suffered loss and she too easily draws our sympathy.
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