From Publishers Weekly
Can there be too much of a good thing? Hart's second literary thriller starring pathologist Nora Gavin, set in the misty midlands and myth-laden peat bogs of County Offaly, is an Irish breakfast of a book: a kidney here, a sausage there, undeniably rich and delicious but likely to provoke indigestion unless consumed slowly. Every character is fascinating, from the depressed yet fearless and tenderly passionate Dr. Gavin, to the coldly erotic and bullying archeologist Ursula Downes, whose murder Nora helps solve nearly at the cost of her own life. The downside of Hart's talent is that there are so many beautifully realized lives in this novel—police detectives, archeologists, beekeepers, scholars, farmers, mothers—that readers will sink into the book as if it were the Loughnabrone ("Lake of Sorrows") Bog itself. Yet it's an emotionally and intellectually gorgeous descent. The many readers who grew attached to Nora and her on-again, off-again amour and sometime investigative partner, archeologist Cormac Maguire, in Haunted Ground
will relish this new adventure, and eagerly await the hinted-at next volume, in which Nora seems likely to return to her native Minnesota to confront Peter Hallett, husband of her dead sister, Triona, and, Nora believes, Triona's killer. Hart's language sings, and the gothic atmosphere lingers the way peat clings to the skin of bog workers.
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Hart's second novel, the follow-up to her superb debut, Haunted Ground
(2003), again sends American forensic pathologist Nora Galvin deep into Ireland's west country to sort out the mystery of a body found in a peat bog--or, as it turns out, two bodies, one ancient and one contemporary, but both bearing the signs of ritual murder in keeping with Ireland's pagan past. That conundrum drives the action in another detail-rich, character-centered mix of local history and tangled human relationships. As Nora and her lover and colleague, archaeologist Cormac Maguire, attempt to reconstruct the lives of the two peat-preserved corpses, they must confront the strains in their own relationship and in those of several families living in the isolated region of Loughnabrone ("Lake of Sorrows") Bog. There is almost too much going on here--too many complex characters, each with the potential to hold up his or her own novel; too many tantalizing historical threads, each deserving a more thorough untangling. But to say that this novel is not quite as focused as its predecessor is not to say that it isn't full of riches for readers who savor the multidimensionality of literary fiction. Look not necessarily to other crime authors for comparisons to Hart's work but rather to such mainstream novelists as Canadian Donna Morrisey (Kit's Law
, Downhill Chance
), who also use local history as the lever with which to pry open the human heart. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved