Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 328
Challenges:
Support Your Local Library Challenge #25

I first heard about this book on a discussion thread for the mystery lovers group on Goodreads.

I’d never heard about ‘bog bodies’ until I heard about this book. This is a small excerpt from the archaeology.org page about them.

Over the past centuries, remains of many hundreds of people–men, women, and children–have come to light during peat cutting activities in northwestern Europe, especially in Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, northern Germany, and Denmark. These are the “bog bodies.” The individual bog bodies show a great degree of variation in their state of preservation, from skeletons, to well-preserved complete bodies, to isolated heads and limbs. They range in date from 8000 B.C. to the early medieval period. Most date from the centuries around the beginning of our era. We do not know exactly how many bog bodies have been found–many have disappeared since their discovery.

This book opens with the discovery of a well preserved decapitated head of a young red-headed woman in a peat bog near a small Irish village. The age of the head will determine whether it is a case for the police or archaeological research. Could this be the wife of a local landowner who disappeared over two years ago with her young child? Many of the villagers suspect her husband knows more than he says about her disappearance. It’s soon clear that this is someone who has been dead for hundreds of years. What is not clear is who was she and where is the rest of her body?

Investigating this case are archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin. Also involved in the investigation of the young mother and child is local detective Garrett Devaney. The multiple mysteries play out a bit slowly at first as details of the story and the backstories of Maguire, Gavin and Devaney are skillfully doled out bit by bit. As the clues are gathered the answers to all the questions are quite satisfactorily revealed.

Erin Hart’s debut novel is a fascinating mixture of mystery styles. It is part medical/forensic mystery, part police procedural, part gothic suspense with bits of history, archaeology and Irish folklore all mixed in. The primary and secondary characters are interesting and well written. I enjoyed this book a lot and have added Hart’s second book (also featuring Maguire and Gavin) to my TBR list.

Rating 4/5