Mermaids, other Irish folklore, and American crime meet in this long-awaited follow-up to Lake of Sorrows and Haunted Ground. Pathologist Nora Gavin has spent a few years in Ireland examining bodies buried and preserved in Ireland's peat. Now the time has come for her to return home to Minnesota to examine the murder of her sister, Triona.
Nora left St. Paul in frustration after not being able to prove that her sister's husband, Peter, killed Triona. What she feels in her soul cannot be proven in a court of law. She returns also to Frank Cordova, the lead police investigator for the crime. Frank hopes she wants to continue the relationship with him that she abandoned when she fled to Ireland, but Nora's heart lies with Cormac, an archaeologist and musician she met in Ireland. What Nora wants from Frank is to continue to track Triona's final days in the hope that new evidence can be uncovered. Time is running out because Peter is slated to marry Miranda, the sister of another of Nora's old boyfriends. Nora fears that Miranda will share Triona's fate. Complicating the mix is Elizabeth, Triona and Peter's daughter. She is eleven now and her future is looking grim. Nora is desperate to help her as well.
What Erin Hart also does is to call forth the mystery of nature. In this case the mystery may lie beyond the ken of human science. Throughout the book, Hart refers to the selkie mythology: a seal who is forced to live as a human until she can break the spell of the man who binds her. Could that old tale be true, and what bearing does it have on Triona's life or death? In poetic fashion, Hart weaves Irish myth and music with the grim practicalities of tracking down a cold-blooded killer. Nora lays her heart open to save Elizabeth and honor Triona's memory.
In Michael Connelly's best book, The Concrete Blonde, police detective Harry Bosch takes on the decades old case of who murdered his mother. I admire how Connelly built up to this story with hints about Harry's troubled past in prior books. Then, wham! – The Concrete Blonde. In a similar fashion, Hart's prior books built up to this denouement of Nora's sister's story. Other than Nora's unnecessary, cinematic forays into spooky places alone (sheesh, without telling anyone, even), she is canny and intuitive in her search for clues. This was a very satisfactory ending to Nora's torment. I also enjoyed Hart's well-developed peripheral characters and the red herrings thrown the reader's way.