Monday, December 16, 2013

Grandma's Gingerbread Men

This month (in addition to scribbling madly on Book Five, of course...) I'm helping to whip up the usual army of gingerbread men for the holidays. Does anybody else remember that great line from Margo Ledbetter on the Brit-com "Good Neighbors"? Surely you remember Margo (played by the estimable Penelope Keith), on the subject of her impressive baking output for charity: "Gingerbread men in quantity hold no fear for me!" The recipe below was handed down on the German-American side of the family by my wonderful grandmother, Morine Pickart Van Steenhuyse.

You might well wonder whether I've tried to make them into little replica bog men. Not yet, but I suppose it could be done...

Gingerbread Men
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup dark molasses
2 eggs
7 cups flour (more or less)
1 cup hot coffee (with 2 heaping teaspoons baking soda added)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger

Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg with electric mixer, then slowly add hot coffee/soda mixture and stir well. (It will look horrible, but don't be deterred!) Add half the flour, spices, and stir thoroughly, then add remaining flour until the dough is easily handled, but still sticky. Cover and chill overnight. Roll out and cut as desired. Bake cookies at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until no imprint remains. When cool, frost and decorate as desired.

When the frosting is dry, layer the cookies in tins or plastic food containers, and put a few apple slices wrapped loosely in aluminum foil around the edges. This helps soften the cookies, and gives them a lovely apple flavor. Remove the apples after a few days, before they become a science experiment!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BOOK OF KILLOWEN glossary entries

One of the delightfully fun things about writing novels is getting to share all of the strange and esoteric knowledge I gain through research. Many people want to know how to pronounce Irish words and names; I get to translate some of the slang my characters use, and explain forensic details, archaeological terms, and in the case of this new book, lots of fascinating information about the making of early medieval manuscripts, including all the strange materials used to create inks and pigments.

I'm working on definitions and pronunciations for the list of words below, and would love to know if there are any other words you're dying to know about. Let me know, and I'll include them on the glossary page.

New glossary entries for THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN

An Feadán Mór
Annala Rioghachta Éireann
Annals of the Four Masters
atin’ (eating)


caput humeri, tuberculum majoris, infra spinatus, teres minor...
Cill Eóghain
Cumdach Eóghain

Dun Aengus

Éile Uí Chearbhaill


Go mhéimid beo ag an am seo arís.


interphalangeal joint
‘in ualle lacrimarum in loco quem posuit.’

John O’Donovan


lamina propria
liber sextus
livor mortis



Ó Beigléighinn

poncing, ponce
Port na Rón

red lake
rushy glen 

saag chicken and garlic naan
Senchus Mór
shower of shites
St. Manchan

Tir na nOg
Tom O’Bedlam

vitae aeternam


yellow ochre

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"In the beginning was the Word..."

I confess to being a bit tongue-tied whenever trying to explain what my books are ABOUT. Yes, they're archaeological/forensic mysteries set in the bogs of Ireland, but I sincerely hope that each one is ABOUT much more than just whodunit. Any good novel is full of mysteries, and in some ways, I prefer to let readers find the connections and the meaning behind the stories. 

But there is always an underlying theme: in HAUNTED GROUND it was how the past intrudes into and connects with the present; in LAKE OF SORROWS it was how the notion of sacrifice has stayed with us down through the ages; in FALSE MERMAID I got to play with all sorts of fairy-tale ideas about identity and shape-shifting.

THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN was inspired by the discovery of  The Faddan More Psalter, a 9th-century book of psalms, in a Tipperary bog in 2006. I was fascinated by the thought of someone losing a book in a bog... Not to mention the fact that a leather satchel had been found not far away... seven years previously. Anyone who knows anything about medieval scribes knows that they stored and carried their manuscripts around in leather book satchels, known in Irish as tiag libuir

For those of you who know Cormac Maguire and Nora Gavin, THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN has them back in the bogs of Ireland, recovering the remains of a  man from the ninth century who has turned up for some reason in the trunk of a car buried in the bog.

(When I told people how the story began, they would always ask how a ninth-century guy ended up in the trunk of a car, and I'd say, "I don't know—I have to write the book to find out.")

While Cormac and Nora are out on the excavation, another body turns up, and this time it's a modern murder victim, Benedict Kavanagh, the host of a television program. Cormac and Nora are staying at Killowen, a local organic farm/artists' retreat, and the people living or working there (including Kavanagh's wife and her lover) all become suspects in his murder.

My fictional story centers on the search for an ancient manuscript. I'm fascinated by the ways in which Irish culture throughout the ages was perpetuated without written language (and is still being perpetuated, in some situations), and how the Irish monks who copied out all those thousands of manuscripts in the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries kept ideas and learning alive. 

I've always had more than a passing interest in handwriting and calligraphy, but when the Faddan More Psalter turned up, I got very interested in the whole fascinating history of books and book-making. Imagine living in a time when every book in the world had been written out by hand...

To me, the theme of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN centers on language and words, the ways and habits we have of encoding language, the ways in which words and stories and beliefs are handed down. 

Various people in the novel  have trouble communicating: some speak in fits and starts because of brain conditions like aphasia and Tourette's, some can't read or write, some speak languages other than English. To these people, and those trying to understand them, the link between words and their meaning cannot be taken for granted.

We're going through a revolution at the moment, not unlike the revolution that occurred in Ireland in the early days of Christianity, when the written word began to supersede the spoken word at the center of the culture. THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN touches upon all those ideas, the mysterious ways that words and knowledge are passed down through the centuries. 

The transmission of knowledge in traditional culture—music, song, storytelling, and history—is something that fascinates me, and it's something my characters often think about. At one point in HAUNTED GROUND, Cormac says to Nora: 
Things do remain. People carry on, without even knowing. You can’t kill that, as hard as you might try. It’s almost like something embedded in our subconscious, like a virus, that only shows itself in certain conditions. Sounds daft, I know, but doesn’t it make sense, when you think of all that’s managed to survive?

In THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN, the young scribe in the prologue, Eóghan, is obsessed with words and writing, and keeps returning to a passage from the Gospel of John, something he probably would have copied out by hand many times over: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word."  

Although I'm thoroughly agnostic, I am fascinated by this connection in the human mind between the idea of god and the idea of language. Every belief system in the world has its holy books, collections of words that distill and magnify religious and spiritual ideas. 

Those books are our still-vital connection to the thoughts that traveled through the minds of ancient philosophers and scholars. There must have been many written works that did not survive. But a few managed to travel through millennia unscathed, and that we still have any of those ancient works at all is probably down to the Irish monks who patiently copied out every book they could get their hands on, spreading curiosity and the love of knowledge at a time when approved and accepted ways of thinking were growing narrower and narrower.

I'm also playing around with ideas about how we define the word 'book.' The characters in THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN debate this subject over the dinner table Is a book an artifact, a physical object, something we can hold in our hands and touch? People who love books love that aspect of them, right down to the smell of ink and glue. Or can a book be a collection of words and ideas, in whatever format used to transmit them? I hear from more and more people all the time who are completely devoted to audiobooks, who revel in the words of a story brought to life by reading aloud. 

That's the way I learned to love books, living along with the characters as my mother read to us from LITTLE WOMEN, ROBINSON CRUSOE, TREASURE ISLAND, MISTRESS MASHAM'S REPOSE...

I would love to hear YOUR thoughts about all this, dear readers. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sisters in Crime - We Love Libraries!

Like many of you, I pretty much grew up in the stacks at my local public library, and have long been an ardent fan and supporter of libraries in Minnesota, who do so much wonderful programming, in addition to fostering reading and learning every day of the year. So I am thrilled to report that another Minnesota library has won the national Sisters in Crime "We Love Libraries" drawing! 

Libraries enter the drawing by sending in photos of staff members with books by members of Sisters in Crime. I was delighted that the Mille Lacs Community Library in Isle, Minnesota decided to feature in their winning photo a whole bunch of books by members of Twin Cities Sisters in Crime, including BLOODY HALLS by Carl Brookins, BUTTONS AND BONES by Monica Ferris, DEATH OF THE MANTIS by Michael Stanley, BINGO BARGE MURDER by Jessie Chandler, and FALSE MERMAID by yours truly. 

The Mille Lacs Community Library will receive their check from current Twin Cities Sisters in Crime president Rhonda Gilliland and a panel of local SinC authors (Mickie Turk, Pam Leonard, and Christine Husom) on April 17, at 7 pm. All are welcome for the panel discussion and celebration! 

Here's a bit more about "We Love Libraries" from the Sisters in Crime website: 
Grants of $1,000 will be awarded monthly from January through December 2013. At the end of each month, a winner will be drawn from entries received at our website at Only U.S. libraries may enter the drawing. Below you will find photos of our latest winners. 
To enter, simply complete the entry form and upload a photo of one or more of your staff with three books in your collection by Sisters in Crime members. You can find a list of our members who are authors by clicking here, or by navigating to our left side menu under Resources, SinC Authors. 
After the random drawing on the last business day of the month, the winning library will be contacted and announced. All branches within a larger system may enter; however, once a library in the system has won, no other libraries within that system can win the grant. Those not successful in one month will automatically be entered for subsequent drawings. Grants must be used to purchase books and may not be used for general operating expenses. Book purchases are NOT restricted to the mystery genre nor to those by Sisters in Crime members. There is no cost or obligation other than allowing us to post winners' photos on our website. 
All libraries are welcome to enter.

For more details and an entry form, check out the Sisters in Crime website.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


What a wonderful night! After worrying about the weather (about eight inches in the morning, and it didn't stop snowing until late afternoon), we went ahead with the launch party for THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN and THE ROAD FROM CASTLEBARNAGH on March 5.

Thanks to our friends and family, and to all who braved the weather to come out on a snowy night to Saint Paul's beautiful James J. Hill Reference Library for a brief visit to Ireland's recent and not-so-recent past! 

The Hill Library, with its shelves reaching all the way to the second-story ceiling, is reminiscent of the Long Room at Trinity College Library, and was a perfect setting for launching THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN, a story that draws upon the history of ancient Irish scholars and scribes and their marvelous handwritten manuscripts.

We had some gorgeous music from our friends Ann and Charlie Heymann—also known by the name of their band, Clairseach—with Ann on wire-strung harp, and Charlie on cittern, accordion, and various other instruments as well. 

Paddy and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting about and reading from our books, and sharing images of the people, places, and artifacts that inspired our stories. Paddy read "Hairpins and Combs," a chapter from THE ROAD TO CASTLEBARNAGH about his first musical instrument, a mouth organ, purchased for one shilling from a peddler who visited his family home in the early 1950s. I read a section from the prologue of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN, a dramatic tale of murder set in the 9th century.

Many thanks to Alayne Hopkins from the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and to Beth O'Connor and Dawn Knapek from the James J. Hill Reference Library for all their work in making such a wonderful and welcoming event.

Huge thanks also to everyone who helped with setup and making sure that everything ran smoothly: Bonnie Schueler, Betty and John Rogers, Julie Hart, Karen Mueller, Linda White, Shannon and Mike Nemer, Lisa McDaniel, Laurie Muir, and Sue Zumberge and David Unowsky from SubText: A Bookstore.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Review from January 15, 2013: Volume LXXXI, No 2

Delighted to get a very kindly assessment from the folks at Kirkus Reviews, who maintain a reputation for finicky taste in literature, mystery and otherwise. I certainly don't mind, especially as I am an almost-famously finicky critic myself.

It's always exciting to get the first few reviews from the trades before a book comes out, and a relief when they're not too bad. The review contains a nifty plot summary, positively exemplary in its brevity—nicely done!—and ends:

Hart’s foray into soggy Killowen has a rock-solid foundation of musical language and deft plotting."

Pub Date: March 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-3484-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online: Dec. 27th, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Faddan More Psalter

All of my novels are inspired by real archaeological finds, and THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN is no exception. Things keep turning up in Irish bogs—gold, bog butter, wooden roads, even people—at this rate, I have enough inspiration to keep Cormac and Nora busy for for quite some time.

In July 2006, a workman named Eddie Fogarty was operating a mechanical digger in the bog at Faddan More, Co. Tipperary, located just a few miles southwest of Birr in County Offaly. He was cutting big blocks of turf, to be ground up for peat moss used in gardening.

Here's a view of turf blocks drying on Faddan More bog, 
taken when I visited in April 2011.

Eddie Fogarty had spotted a leather-bound book as it fell from the bucket of his digger into an adjacent trench, and immediately called the landowners, Kevin and Patrick Leonard, who had some experience with artifacts previously found in this particular bog. More on that later...

The Faddan More Psalter, in situ

The Leonards knew they had something unusual when they spotted some illuminated pages, and phoned the National Museum with the news that they’d discovered something almost like the Book of Kells.

A crew from the National Museum, including museum director Pat Wallace, archaeologist and Keeper of Antiquities Eamonn Kelly, and Keeper of Conservation Rolly Read, all rushed out to the bog site.

The manuscript in question turned out to be a Psalter, a book of Psalms written in the 9th century. Several lines of text were visible, and it was the museum's Head of Collections, Dr. Raghnall Ó Floinn, who managed to pick out a single legible phrase: ‘in ualle lacrimarum’—‘in the vale of tears.’ 

The Faddan More Psalter, still wet from the bog

After a bit of research, it turned out that the bit of legible writing was a line from Psalm 83, verse 7: ‘in ualle lacrimarum in loco quem posuit.’ — ‘In the vale of tears, in the place which he has set.’ 

The Faddan More Psalter

As you can see, the book wasn't exactly in great shape; many of the pages had been reduced to a sort of gelatinous goo, with only the edges preserved, but it was still an amazing find, unlike any other in the world. Judging from the style of writing and embellishment, antiquities experts estimated that it was written around the ninth century. There were many famous monasteries in the region around Faddan More—Birr and Clonmacnoise to name only two.


The Faddan More Psalter underwent more than two years of conservation work (more on that later as well...) and is now on permanent display at the National Museum of Ireland, part of an exhibit entitled The Treasury: Celtic and Early Christian Ireland. 

And I suppose you know how the minds of crime writers work—always looking for a body. I heard about this discovery of a ninth-century book of Psalms and immediately started to wonder about the person who'd carried it into the bog... Images of a scholar and his assistant began to percolate, and became the opening prologue of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ancient wax tablets

One of the world's most fascinating bog discoveriesthought to be the oldest existing examples of Latin writing from Irelandare the Springmount Bog tablets. These are wax tablets on which are inscribed the Vulgate text of Psalms 30-32. They were found in a bog in County Antrim, Ireland, in the early 20th century, and are now preserved in the National Museum of Ireland, and some of the tablets are part of the Faddan More Psalter exhibit at the museum. More on the Psalter later...

Thou wilt bring me out of this snare, 
which they have hidden for me: 
for thou art my protector.  

"The tablets are c. 75 x 210 mm, c. 7 mm thick, and appear to have been lashed together as a group of six, waxed sides together" (Stevenson, "Literacy in Ireland: The Evidence of the Patrick Dossier in the Book of Armagh," — McKitterick (ed) The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe [1990] 20).
"These are an unusual survival, given the climatic conditions of northern Europe; they were preserved owing to loss in a peat bog, and they convey graphically the obligation of the priest to be ‘psalteratus’—to have memorised and be able to recite the Psalms, in the tradition of the Judaic priesthood—and recall exhortations to ordinands to spend whatever time possible learning them, even when travelling (as the person studying these extracts may have been)" — Michelle P. Brown, Preaching with the Pen: the Contribution of Insular Scribes to the Transmission of Sacred Text, from the 6th to 9th Centuries [2004]).


A wax tablet was often in the form of a diptych, a small two-paneled booklet, usually bound with a leather thong. Writing was done with a stylus, a pointed instrument made of metal, bone, or wood.

Here's a bone stylus featuring a human head, discovered during excavation at Kells Priory, in County Kilkenny. The archaeologists' report describes its possible uses:
An expertly carved bone parchment pricker or stylus with an anthropomorphic head was used either when laying out the script on parchment or for writing on wax tablets. 
The wax tablet and stylus were important in monastic life. The Rule of Saint Benedict, which dates to the sixth century, included the tablet and its stylus in its list of necessary accoutrements of the monastic life: "et ut hoc vitium peculiaris radicitus amputetur, dentur al abbate omnia quae sunt necessaria, id est cuculla, tunica, pedules, caligas, bracile, cultellum, graphium, acum, mappula, tabulas..." ["In order that this vice of private ownership may be completely uprooted, the abbot is to provide all things necessary: that is, cowl, tunic, sandals, shoes, belt, knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief and writing tablets..." 

Some Roman styli from Shrewsbury in England. 
The pointed end was used for writing; the flat end 
was used to smooth out the wax for re-use.

Saint Aldhelm (639-709) was famous for his riddles. He composed one about wax tablets, or pugillares, as he would have referred to them in Latin, in the late seventh century:

     Of honey-laden bees I first was born,   
     But in the forest grew my outer coat;   
     My shoes from tough hides came.  An iron point    
     In artful windings cuts a fair design,  
     And leaves long, twisted furrows, like a plough...

Oak galls and iron gall ink

Because I know many of you are as geeky about historical detail as I am, I thought I'd share some pictures of the people, places, and artifacts that inspired the story of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN.

When I thought about writing a story about ancient manuscripts, some of the first objects that snagged my imagination were oak galls, used since ancient times to create ink for writing.

Here's an oak gall, a common growth on oak trees around the world, and a source of basic dark ink from medieval times right up to the 19th century. Many of the monks who created Ireland's ancient manuscripts used iron gall ink. It's not much in favor these days (too acidic - eats through paper), but in the days of calfskin vellum, the tannic acid in the ink bit into the page and made the lettering indelible.

Oak galls are formed when a gall wasp lays her eggs on the tip of an oak branch, and the tree begins to secrete a fluid that ends up enveloping the egg, and ultimately becomes a food source for the developing wasp larva.

Here's how oak galls are described in an old medical text, A History of the Materia Medica, by John Hill, M.D., published in 1751:

[From galla.]
***Galls or galnuts are a kind of preternatural and accidental tumours, produced by the Punctures of Insects on the Oaks of several Species; but those of the oak only are used in medicine. We have two kinds, the Oriental and the European galls: the Oriental are brought from Aleppo, of the bigness of a large nutmeg, with tubercles on their surface, of a very firm and solid texture, and a disagreeable, acerb, and astringent taste. The European galls are of the same size, with perfectly smooth surfaces: they are light, often spongy, and cavernous within, and always of a lax texture. They have a less austere taste, and are of much less value than the first sort, both in manufactures and medicine. The general history of galls is this: an insect of the fly kind, for the safety of her young, wounds the branches of the trees, and in the hole deposites her egg: the lacerated vessels of the tree discharging their contents, form a tumour or woody case about the hole, where the egg is thus defended from all injuries. This tumour also serves for the food of the tender maggot, produced from the egg of the fly, which, as soon as it is perfect, and in its winged state, gnaws its way out, as appears from the hole found in the gall; and where no hole is seen on its surface, the maggot, or its remains, are sure to be found within, on breaking it. It has been observed, that the oak does not produce galls in cold countries: but this observation should be confined to the medicinal galls; for all those excrescences which we find on this tree in our own woods, and call oak-apples, oak-grapes, and oak-cones, are true and genuine galls, though less firm in their texture. The true reason of the hard ones not being produced with us, seems to be that we want the peculiar species of insect to which they owe their origin, which is a fly of the ichneumon kind, only found in hot countries. The species of fly that occasions, by its punctures, the soft galls of France and Italy, is different both from the Syrian one and from ours, though still of the ichneumon kind; and we find the several kinds, which occasion the different galls in our own kingdom, produce different kinds, and those of different degrees of hardness, on the same tree. Galls are used in making ink, and in dying and dressing leather, and many other manufactures. In medicine they are very astringent, and good under proper management.

When the wasp is mature, it bores a hole through the flesh of the gall and escapes, and the gall dries up, leaving a nut-like body rich in tannic acid, the substance that makes them suitable for ink.

Monks and other ink-makers would gather oak galls, and devise an ink using this ancient recipe, taken from a Booke of Secrets:

Iron gall ink was used as the basic dark black/brown ink for countless books, including the Book of Kells and other Irish manuscripts, including the Cathach of Saint Columba, the oldest surviving Irish manuscript.

If you'd like to read more about a modern artist's attempts to make ancient iron gall ink, check out John Daniel's very interesting blog about insects in art, THE ENDLESS SWARM.

BOOK OF KILLOWEN Giveaway on Goodreads

Finished copies of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN arrived the other day... There's no getting over seeing a realy book for the first time. 

And I have to say, this one looks even better in the flesh than it did in mockups or galleys. I really love the smudgy, shadowy manuscript effect, and the way the artwork wraps around the spine is particularly spectacular. 

To celebrate the new arrival, Scribner is giving away 15 copies of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN on Goodreads. All you need to do to enter is to click on the link below, and enter your mailing address so they can send the book if you win...

Goodreads Giveaway-THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN

Only three days left to enter the drawing!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wait, how do you say that again?

Thanks for asking. That last word in the title of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN, is pronounced 'KILL-OWEN,' as if  you were saying, 'Arrghhhh! I'm going to kill Owen if he does that one more time!'

I'm hearing a lot of people say 'KILLOW-en,' with the emphasis pronounced to rhyme with 'WILLOW-en,' but the place name is originally two words in the Irish language and that's why it's pronounced the way it is.

'Cill' in Irish means 'church', and the full place name in the story is Cill Eoghain, or Owen's Church. You'll understand how it got that name after you read the first chapter of THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

As pointed out in THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN, the country was fairly rotten with churches and monasteries in the early middle ages. There were chapels around every bend in the road. You can still see a fair number of them, thanks to the Irish attachment to crumbly stonework. Thousands of place names in Ireland begin with 'kill,' and now you know why. 

My farvorite reference book on all this is IRISH PLACE NAMES, by Deirdre Flanagan and Laurence Flanagan, which gives detailed information on certain common constructions in Irish place names, and then translations for hundreds more. Here's what they say about 'cill':
Means 'church' and is the form which most frequently occurs in Irish place-names. It is the dative singular of the word ceall, derived from the Latin cella, which in Classical Latin referred to a 'room within a building', one of its special applications being to a 'shrine of a deity within the pagan 'templum'. In place-names it has a range of associated meanings: 'church, monastic settlement or foundation, churchyard, graveyard'. Of these,  in place-names, 'monastic settlement' is the commonest reference, particularly where the name can be shown to pre-date the ecclesiatical reforms of the twelfth century.
If you're interested in the interesting and poetic place names in Ireland, you'll

My favorite ancient churches and chapels are places like Dysert O'Dea in Clare (pictured here), which has the most fantastic carved heads around the archway at the main door to the chapel. It's worth the visit, and cutting through the pasture and climbing over the stile in the stone fence to see this beautiful place.

The Nun's Chapel at Clonmacnoise (you have to cut through another pasture to get there!) is another great example of an intricately carved Romanesque doorway, and the interior of Cormac's Chapel at the Rock of Cashel is another, though it's badly damaged from too much moisture these days, and covered in scaffolding much of the time.

Another wonderful ancient church worth visiting (again, if you like climbing fences and hiking) is Teampall Chrónáin in the Burren region of County Clare.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Starred review in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY!

The Book of Killowen
Erin Hart. Scribner, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4516-3484-6
Hart combines powerful insights into human nature and pristine prose with history and archeology in her stellar fourth crime novel featuring Irish archeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin (after 2010’s False Mermaid). When the bog-preserved but dismembered and stabbed body of a ninth-century monk is found with the body of Benedict Kavanagh—the host of an intellectual TV chat show who’s been missing for months—in the trunk of a car excavated from a Tipperary bog, Nora and Cormac investigate on the behalf of Ireland’s National Museum. The pair, working in parallel with local detective Stella Cusack, look into landowner Vincent Claffey and the residents of the artists’ colony at Killowen, a tight-knit community of individuals with hidden pasts and strong motivations to protect themselves. Hart teases the reader with hints without telegraphing the solutions to the mysteries a moment too soon. This exploration of the ways people keep secrets, innocuous and terrible, to create sanity out of difficult pasts, offers food for thought that persists beyond the immediate thrill of a well-told tale. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Brickhouse Literary Agents. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
This makes me so happy!