Monday, August 8, 2022

The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor

Title: The Mountains Wild
Author: Sarah Stewart Taylor
Publication: Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s, hardcover 2020
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Dublin
Description: Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D’Arcy’s cousin Erin disappeared in Ireland so she flew from Long Island to Dublin to represent the family and find out what was going on. Maggie spent several months trying to investigate any trace of her cousin without success, returned home, and became a detective. When the Irish police call to tell her Erin’s scarf has been found and possibly linked to other young women are missing, Maggie returns to Dublin, determined to take a more active part in the search and this time get the answers she deserves.

My Impression: My sister Clare recommended this book several weeks ago and before much time had passed my mother, sister Andrea, and I had all read and enjoyed it. The Mountains Wild is an atmospheric story, set mostly in Dublin, about cousins a year apart in age who grew up together in Long Island. They grew apart as teens and Erin started acting out while Maggie excelled academically. In her early 20s, Erin moved to Dublin, got a job in a pub, and disappeared. The failure of the Dublin police to locate her led Maggie to join the police and become a detective; she is also a divorced mother of a teen. After Erin’s scarf is found and linked to more recent missing girls, Maggie returns to Dublin with the experience of finding killers she did not initially possess and renewed determination to find her cousin.
Readers who like Tana French's books will enjoy this and, in fact, I liked it better than French's most recent, The Searcher. The pacing of the story was strong at the beginning and end, and the flashbacks to 1993 were well done. The conclusion was dramatic and unexpected, which made me go back to reread the last 60 pages. There were, however, several weaknesses to the story that a good editor should have caught. Maggie may have studied Irish history at Notre Dame but the references to Ireland’s Troubles without much context were confusing to an American reader and bogged down the story. It was also a little unconvincing how quickly Maggie became obsessed with Erin’s coworker and how her fascination with him endured for 23 years, although maybe that is helped by an unsatisfactory marriage. As my younger sister pointed out, one scary character is described “powerfully built, not handsome” in 1993 but in 2016 he “is older, but he’s still handsome.” In another scene, someone is tied up with her hands behind her back, yet is able to point to something several minutes later. Also, a priest writing a letter would capitalize the word “Mass” even if a publisher’s house style does not do so. Flaws like this distract from the story, which is a pity. However, my sister has already read the second in the series and said it was even better than this one. I am glad she discovered a talented new author who lives in New England. Taylor’s booksigning at An Unlikely Story was postponed but perhaps will be rescheduled in the fall.
Source: Library. This is my fourteenth book for Carol's 2022 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge. I will also count it as my “Immersion” category for Book Bingo as it is the time that Maggie spends in Dublin, visiting the places her cousin spent time at, that enables her to unravel Erin’s disappearance.


Mark Baker said...

Glad to see you enjoyed this one. I did, too.

TracyK said...

I have probably told you this before, but I have read Sarah Stewart Taylor's first series, which featured graveyard art. I haven't read this book yet but I have a copy. Maybe I won't notice the things that bothered you.