Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart #ReadingIreland2023

Title: Haunted Ground
Author: Erin Hart
Publication: Scribner, hardcover, 2003
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Present-day Ireland
Description: When farmers cutting turf in a peat bog uncover a well-preserved woman’s body, the pathologist refers it to Cormac Maguire, an archeologist at University College Dublin and Dr. Nora Gavin in the anatomy department at Trinity College Medical School. The two have met but travel separately to the country to inspect the body. Because the bog functions as a preservative, this body turns out to be quite old and thus of great interest. Nora is determined to find out who the woman was. Near the site, however, is another mystery. The wife and son of local landowner Hugh Osborne went for a walk two years ago and never returned. Although Hugh was never formally accused of their deaths, people assume either that he killed them or that his wife was escaping from an unhappy marriage. Cormac and Nora have to puzzle over their 17th-century corpse, stay temporarily with Hugh Osborne even as they wonder if he is a murderer, and deal with their own complicated relationship as they try to solve two mysteries with no apparent connection.
My Impression: After reading several books set during the Troubles, it was a relief to read a book with a contemporary Irish setting and a relatively ancient corpse. The body unearthed by the McGann brothers may be unrelated to the present-day mystery of what happened to Hugh Osborne’s wife but Una McGann cares about Hugh as much as her elder brother dislikes him so there are still several connections. Detective Garrett Devaney has shared his questions about the missing wife with Cormac and Nora but admits there is no proof that a crime was even committed. However, when Hugh invites Cormac and Nora to stay at Bracklyn House to conduct an archeological survey of a site he wants to build on, it seems a good opportunity to satisfy their own curiosity.
Having only seen him briefly out in the bog, Nora was disconcerted by the impression Hugh Osborn made face to face. He was dressed more formally now, and was taller and more powerful than she remembered, with strong bones and a weathered complexion that made him undeniably attractive. The deep-set, hooded eyes regarded her with equanimity. But you could look directly into the eyes of a killer and see nothing at all untoward; she knew because she had done it.
One of the reasons Nora is very affected by finding a female corpse and wondering whether Hugh Osborne abused his wife is that her sister died tragically and she is convinced her brother-in-law is a murderer. This obsession has caused chaos in Nora’s life: her fiancĂ© left her, her parents don’t want to lose contact with their granddaughter so refuse to believe her, and Nora left America for Dublin to escape her misery. I was not sure I liked these characters enough to continue with this series but I am curious about whether Nora will ever solve the mystery of her sister’s death so perhaps I need to read the third book in the series, False Mermaid. Overall, I enjoyed the Irish countryside setting, the historical and the present-day mystery, and a heroine who is educated and talented, even if her interest in dead bodies is a bit macabre (undeniably useful for a sleuth).
Source: Library. This review is for Reading Ireland 2023 hosted by Cathy at 746 Books and for the Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge at Carol’s Notebook.


Claire McALPINE said...

This sounds like an interesting mystery in an Irish setting and a change indeed from reading about The Troubles. I just read The Country Girls trilogy and that too avoids most of the political tension. There's so much on offer when Reading Around Ireland!

Cath said...

Oh, I read this back in 2010! I thought it was quite good but have not read any more with these characters and like you I did think I would just to find out about her sister's death. Oh, well.

TracyK said...

If I run into this at the book sale I will definitely give it a try. The Irish setting does sound good.