A dazzling debut -- already an international publishing sensation -- combining forensics, history, archaeology, and suspense. Introducing Erin Hart, who brings the beauty, poignancy, mystery, and romance of the Irish countryside to her richly nuanced first novel.
When farmers cutting turf in a peat bog make a grisly discovery -- the perfectly preserved severed head of a young woman with long red hair -- Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin team up in a case that will open old wounds.
Peat bogs prevent decay, so the decapitated young woman could have been buried for two decades, two centuries, or even much longer. Who is she? When was she killed? The extraordinary find leads to even more disturbing puzzles. The red-haired girl is clearly a case for the archaeologists, not the police. Still, her tale may have shocking ties to the present, and Cormac and Nora must use cutting-edge techniques to preserve ancient evidence.
And the red-haired girl is not the only enigma in this remote corner of Galway. Two years earlier, Mina Osborne, the local landowner's Indian-born wife, went for a walk with her young son and never returned. Did Mina simply decide to disappear, or did mother and child become lost in the treacherous bog? Could they, too, be hidden in its depths, only to be discovered centuries from now? Or did the landowner, Hugh Osborne, murder his family, as some villagers suspect?
Bracklyn House, Osborne's stately home, holds many secrets for Nora and Cormac and policeman Garrett Devaney. But time is running out. Devaney's superiors want him off the Osborne case. Now. He wants to stay and find a killer.
Meticulously crafted and resonating with traditional music and folklore, Haunted Ground celebrates Ireland's turbulent history, revealing the eternal, subliminal connections between past and present in a riveting novel that heralds the arrival of a bright new crime-writing star.
ERIN HART'S archaeological crime novels are set in the mysterious boglands of Ireland. She introduced pathologist Nora Gavin in one of the most lauded mystery debuts of 2003: HAUNTED GROUND (2003), was a Booksense 76 pick, won the Friends of American Writers award and Romantic Times' Best First Mystery, was shortlisted for Anthony and Agatha awards, and translated into ten foreign languages. LAKE OF SORROWS (2004) was shortlisted for a Minnesota Book Award, and FALSE MERMAID (2010) was named by ALA/Booklist as one of the Top Ten Crime Novels of 2010. THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN is due out in March 2013. A Minnesota theater critic, a former communications director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, and a founder of the Twin Cities Irish Music & Dance Association, Hart received an M.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. Erin lives in Saint Paul with her husband, Irish musician Paddy O'Brien (http://www.paddyobrien.net), and travels frequently to Ireland.
When a pair of scientists go to investigate an ancient body discovered in a bog, they stumble into a more modern mystery in a small Irish community.
The author certainly has a way with language, but I found this book difficult to get interested in. The mystery story is coincidence-heavy, and I didn't feel that it meshed all that well with the archeological aspects. I thought the romance side of things was fairly flat, I just couldn't get why this couple was into each other. Part of that could be because, out of all the people in the book, I found the two main characters the least compelling. I preferred the police detective, the suspicious husband, and the local woman with the young daughter to the pair of snoopy out-of-towners.
Until the very end of the book, the pace often felt like it was crawling along. This may have had something to do with the large number of heavily descriptive passages. Those gave the book an interesting atmosphere, but I think they were a bit overboard.
In books with historical content, I need to trust that the author has done the research. I did look up a few things, but trusted Erin Hart on several points. Being educated about Bog People and their preservation was really interesting. Considering the destruction of the peat bog in favor of a fuel source for personal use and profit versus the environmental impact of the harvesting of an un-renewable resource was also a thought provoking topic. I’m surprised more was not said about the flora and fauna. (Where would the Hound of the Baskervilles be without the moor?)☻
I really enjoy archaeological and anthropological mysteries, even hokey ones. The combination of forensics and folklore was appealing in Haunted Ground.
I wasn’t very invested in the modern mystery. The character of the husband , Hugh Osborne, didn't make me very empathetic, Jeremy, Lucy's son, appears to be vile. I didn’t worry too much about the missing wife and child either, they were not drawn in a sympathetic palette.. I know, I know, I’m hard-hearted. .
I wouldn’t mind traveling again with Nora and Cormac, they can verge on the bedside if they like, didn’t make a difference to me. But hey! I do need a scientist and an emotional educator to keep introducing plot points. I’d also like to again hear from homicide detective, Garrett Devaney; need his tenacity and humanity.
So now that I have managed to put thought to paper, I have decided that everyone was just how they were supposed to be! All characters, whether I liked it or not, belonged in this tale!
The mysteries of the "Cailin Rua" and the red-headed pate, now that was very intriguing. I cared about her reason for being bodiless in the bog Loved how each piece, which was gathered from folklore and music, fit into the puzzle, even though the puzzle piece was often times not in the same box and sometimes had to have an edge shaved in order to snuggle it in!
I finished reading this book at lunch yesterday, but since then I have been puttering around gathering my thoughts. The truth is, right after finishing it, I was not sure what I felt. I definitely felt relieved, since there was a lot of jargon in it that I didn't care for, but I know I enjoyed it too.
Firstly, this is not an easy book to get into initially. I read the first page of the book many times before I felt comfortable in going ahead. The first page is the most important page for me. I won't give up on a book after starting it, no matter how disillusioned the book makes me feel, but if the first page doesn't grip me, then I may not care for it much. Which is why, when I go to a book store to buy a random book, I read its first page before picking or dropping it. Now, I did give up on Haunted Ground a few times, but some of my friends kept insisting that the book is worth it in spite of the starting trouble. I guess I would say almost the same thing, but I would still prefer not to have to struggle for a few pages to get into the plot.
Haunted Ground has two good mysteries weaving in and out. Both suspenseful. Thrilling. And gripping. Erin Hart laid out the initial buildup pretty well, and switched between the two plots fluently, without letting one get way too ahead of the other.
One thing I enjoyed about Haunted Ground is Erin Hart's writing style. Just ponder this prose: "And with the force of the blow, time seemed to telescope. The spaces between seconds allowed an almost unbearably acute perception of each sensation as it passed through him. He was conscious of the grinding sound of stone and mortar giving away, of sharp pain and snapping tree branches, then falling, falling into darkness, and the earth seeming to meet him too soon, with a shuddering thump. And then silence. A most pure and sublime silence roared in his ears as he struggled to take breath." Such a beautiful paragraph, don't you think? Just to describe a man falling down.
There are many such wonderful passages, which are a delight to read.
I did have some qualms though while reading this book. One thing is the excessive technical jargon that went way over my head. I understand most of it was central and necessary to the story, but some kind of footnote would have been helpful.
As for the characters, I couldn't bond with them well. Although Erin Hart did give plenty of pages to some characters, I still felt something lacking, like an unfinished story. Some actions of the characters just weren't making sense to me.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed the book. I don't think I will pick the next book in the Nora Gavin / Cormac Maguire series right away, but I might get to it someday. One of the unfinished subplots in Haunted Ground concerns Nora Gavin's sister. After reading the blurb on the 3rd book, False Mermaid in this series, I gather that Erin Hart is focusing on this subplot in that book. So I am definitely curious to know where she takes that story.
Looking for a new series, tried this one. Gave it a three-stars, or a C+ in my letter grading format. Satisfactory read, though I don't know if I'll continue with the series.
While digging peat in Ireland, a farmer unearths (unpeats?) a severed head. Female, red hair, pretty much intact as far as tissue, teeth, brain, are concerned. No body with her. Bring in the forensic archaeologists, and other specialists, and a local cop who was involved with a different task: locating a young woman and her son who 'walked away' and disappeared.
Was this second woman murdered, abducted, left on her own, had a boyfriend, lover, or is something else afoot? She's the young wife of a local landowner; the people in the area think husband's to blame. Of course they do, it's in the script. He's got a big house, not very well- maintained and lives with a cousin and her teenage son. It's like all the regulars are gathered together, so here we have two stories...
What happened to the mother and son - and btw, she's Indian, which throws in the occasional racism card. And who does the dead head in the peat belong to? (It's not the missing woman.)
There is a TON of information in this book about bodies found in peat, and the history of the area going back to when the English were confiscating property and shipping the Irish out to areas no one really wanted. This goes on for pages and pages, and there are literally - and I mean it literally - paragraphs that go on for a page or more; so this is a heavy read. The information is needed to get a sense of the time, the history, the geography, the culture and all of that - but it goes on and on...
And sometimes the two stories kind of slip out of sight. Head - and missing woman and boy. Missing woman and boy and let's bounce back to the head. When I set the book aside for a day or two, I'd return with: Where was I? Who is he? Which 'her' are we talking about? I didn't keep a cue card on this one from the beginning; perhaps I should have.
So all in all, not a bad read, but a fair one. The ending was a surprise, I grant that - but when the tower was introduced I was like - there's a tower?
Haunted Ground is a book chosen by one of the book groups I am a member of. It is a book I would have probably overlooked on my own. Generally speaking I am not inclined to read gothic mysteries. That said, this is a pretty good book that has history and archaeology interwoven in a suspenseful plot with not one, but two, mysteries. The first centers around a severed head recovered from an Irish peat bog, the other concerning a missing woman and child from a nearby estate.
Most enjoyable to me are the descriptions of the village and the people living there. There are wonderful examples of the traditional music and the folk lore of Ireland often passed down through generations and centuries in poetry and song.
If you think you might be interested in *bog bodies* this book is for you.
* "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." ~ from 'Bodies of the Bogs' in Archeology Magazine - December 1997
Haunted Ground is a very decent debut novel by writer Erin Hart. I enjoy reading stories where they have a historical subplot running along side of the present day story (in this case, the identity of a well preserved, decapitated head found in an Irish bog).
Hart's writing is easy to cosy up to, and her characters are well drawn and interesting. The slight romantic component was probably my least favorite aspect of the book. It seemed a little forced, and didn't add to story in a significant way. I would have been just as happy without it (perhaps later books in the series will develop this relationship in a more pleasing way).
An author I will want to read more from, and a series that has promise.
Overall I did not find Haunted Ground enjoyable, which is disappointing since I would love to find some decent books set in Ireland. Haunted ground features tedious writing and a lot of superfluous details that add very little except boredom. I often felt as though I was reading through molasses I was so bored and bogged down with infodumps and far too many issues for one book to hold. There were two mysteries, each character brings a lot of personal issues, there was a forced attempt at a romance between Nora and Cormac, an Irish musical element and a variety of other issues jammed into the book. The book had a serious issue with focus due to all of these elements. I did not need page after page of dull commentary by Devaney, the cop, for example.
As for the romance between Cormac and Nora, it felt entirely unlikely and unnecessary. There was absolutely no chemistry between the two and I was never convinced of their relationship. Honestly there were a number of lines by Cormac that were cheesier than some historical romances I've read. Being "inside" his head was brutal and wholly unbelievable for a grown man, IMO.
Overall the author was trying to shove too much detail into too small a space, in terms of setting, characters and mysteries. I really wish the author had simply focused on one of the mysteries, namely the bog girl, and included more archaeology and less romance.
What a debut! She's so adept in creating the atmosphere that I could even feel the cold, the immense silence, and the smell of smoke as vividly as if I were right there in the thick of things. The layered mysteries were presented perfectly, with different pieces of the puzzles being with different people. The only thing I'm not buying is that the series is referred to as the Nora Gavin series, whereas I didn't feel her centrality at all. She was a big part of the story, sure, but hers was not the pivotal role that, for instance, Frieda Klein has in Nicci French's books. Maybe this changes in the later volumes although I must say I don't wish for it to happen. The current polyphony goes very well with the type of characters, etc.
I thought this was a pretty good first book for this author. It was a bit slow in the middle after the surprising beginning of finding the red-head's head in the bog. Like others have said, I loved learning about bog bodies and some of the history of Ireland. The suspense began to build up after book 2 (this average-sized book is broken down into 3 "books"). Pretty enjoyable read.
Haunted Ground is the 1st book in the Nora Gavin series. A farmer is cutting peat and discovers the head of a red headed woman. This brings archaeologist Cormac Maguire, pathologist Nora Gavin and Detective Garret Devaney together. There are two mysteries in this book. One is the story behind the red headed woman who was found in the bog. The other mystery is about a mother and her son who disappeared on their way home from the village. The atmospheric location is Galway county in Ireland.
I liked the book as I thought it was well written and the plot had a story to tell. One drawback for me was there were many long descriptive paragraphs. This slowed down my reading as I had to hunkered down to keep my spot and keep my concentration on the written word. It was similar to reading a long email where the writer has a long paragraph rather than several. However, I did enjoy the book. I felt the writer lead the way and I went on the journey with her. She unfolded the story at her own pace. I liked the main characters especially Detective Garret Devaney who I was rooting for as he was so involved in solving the disappearance case. It was a story that stayed with me after reading i
Another volume in my attempt to read more mysteries - this one is an archaeological mystery set in Ireland, where a "bog body" has been discovered. The archaeologist and historian involved work on simultaneous mysteries - one set in ancient Ireland, and one in the present. I was impressed by the unique feeling of this book and it actually made me interested in the mystery itself (a small feat).
Overall the book was too slow paced. The Until halfway I was quite interested, but after that it became a bit tedious and repetitive. I liked the Irish atmosphere and landscapes described especially in the first part.
Erin Hart's first novel, Haunted Ground, shows some of the hallmarks of a first novel, but fortunately sheds them as the pages turn, and we end up with quite a fine read here. If you picked this up and couldn't get past the first few pages, press on. Trust me on this.
The story revolves around an ensemble of characters, but the central two (who seem to be becoming a detective team, as Ms. Hart's website informs us that she is working on a second novel featuring them) are American expatriate Nora Gavin, who fled to her ancestors' home country after the murder of her sister, and Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire. The two of them meet at the site of the discovery of a new bog body (an archeological curiosity of natural bogs, in which bodies can stay perfectly preserved for hundreds of years as long as they're not exposed to the air), but this one has a twist; it's not a body, it's only a head. As they're uncovering it, an hysterical local arrives to find out if it's the head of his wife, who went missing a couple of years before. Despite themselves, and for very different reasons, Nora and Cormac find themselves working on the two parallel mysteries of the disappearance of Mina Osborne and her son in the present day and the identity of the head found in the bog.
There is a good deal of setup, much of it slow, in the first half of the novel. (This seems to be a common thread in the novels I've been reading recently, for some odd reason.) A little trimming could probably have cut thirty to forty pages of the setup, just by rearranging sentences, and made the book more readable. Thankfully, though, once it gets past the halfway point, Haunted Ground gets more compelling, and by the time I got to the last fifty pages, I was staying up late to keep reading. Because of the differing layers of the mystery, it would have been impossible to tie everything up at once, so the ending may seem a bit drawn-out, but at the end, all of the loose ends are tied, everything is resolved to everyone's satisfaction, and the book has turned out a lot better than the first half presaged. A very good debut from a promising new author. *** 1/2
HAUNTED GROUND – VG Erin Hart – 1st book When head of a young woman is uncovered in an Irish peat bog, Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin are called to investigate. However, they also become involved with landowner Hugh Osborne, whose wife and son have been missing for three years.
I loved this book! It gave a real sense of Ireland, its people and it’s history, while telling a very good story. And, there were a couple twists and turns at the end that even I didn’t see coming. I anxiously await her second book.
This unusual mystery took a little while to get off the ground, but once it did, I found it quite satisfying. Set in Ireland, the story gets off to an intriguing start when a local farmer discovers the preserved head of a young woman in a local peat bog.
Called in to investigate and hopefully figure out the age of the find are Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and Nora Gavin, an Irish-American pathologist. The mysterious find is a fascinating thread that runs through the story, but it is a modern-day mystery that held the most appeal for me.
When the preserved head is discovered, a local landowner rushes to the find, hoping it may provide a clue in the disappearance of his wife, Mina. We soon learn that the man is a suspect in the disappearance of his wife and son. Nora and Cormac get drawn into that mystery as well. The author does a great job of showing them torn between wanting to believe the bereaved husband's seemingly honest show of feeling while also being made suspicious by odd doings around the estate.
In addition to the mysteries, the story takes us deep into the character's lives, particularly Nora's. I came away from this book not only with the satisfaction of seeing the threads of mystery come together, but also with a sense of Nora and her world that I enjoyed getting to glimpse. This tale isn't merely a mystery, but also something of an emotional journey for the characters. And if you're looking, you'll find some hints of romance wound into that, too.
I've heard that the first two books in this series are the strongest. This one is definitely worth a read, and I'm inclined to give the second a whirl as well. After that, we'll see.
Haunted Ground begins with an Irish farmer cutting turf in a peat bog and finding more than he bargained for. The square of peat that he removes reveals a perfectly preserved head of a red-haired young woman. The local police call in Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin to work on the site and find out how long the bog has kept its secret. The searchers are unable to find the rest of the woman's remains. While the search is going on, local landowner Hugh Osborne shows up dazed and wondering if the woman is his missing wife.
It's been two years since Hugh's young, Indian-born wife Mina and the couple's son Christopher disappeared without a trace. Rumors are divided between Mina having been unable to cope with Hugh's philandering ways and taking off with Christopher OR that Hugh is the villain of the piece and has disposed of the bodies in some cunning fashion. Perhaps in one of the convenient bogs? Cormac believes Hugh's grief and disorientation to be real, but Nora is none too sure.
As Cormac and Nora continue their investigation they find themselves involved not only in the mystery of the red-haired woman: Who was she? When and why was she killed? but also embroiled in the modern-day disappearance. If Hugh killed Mina for the insurance money (as many believe) why would he hide the bodies so well? Surely he would want them found sooner rather than later? And if the husband didn't do it, then who did? And who is trying to warn them off the case? It becomes obvious that there are many secrets hidden the boggy area--and not all of them are centuries old.
Garrett Devaney is the local policeman on the Osborne case. His superiors have turned the inquiry over to a team in Dublin, but he refuses to let sleeping dogs lie. He knows that the original investigation must have missed something and, contrary to instructions, he keeps digging on his own time. Eventually, his investigation dovetails with the work of Maguire and Gavin...for a very interesting finale.
This was a great read and very nicely done for the author's first outing. As several Goodreads reviews have mentioned, the beginning is a bit slow, but once I made it to the second half--I whizzed right through that last 200 pages and could not go to sleep last night before I finished it. Lots of twists and turns and the historical mystery is woven into the narrative in a fairly seamless manner. Plenty of historical and archeological detail without bogging down the story (sorry, I couldn't resist!). The only minor quibble I have is how conveniently all the threads are tied up. There is a fair amount of lucky happenstance there at the end--regarding the mystery of the red-haired woman. It's almost too much to swallow that so much information would just happen to be preserved. But....a little suspension of disbelief never hurt anyone in the reading realm. Three and 3/4 stars--nearly a full four (which I will go ahead and give it in Goodreads).
An oddly unfocused murder mystery with no assurance that there has even been a murder until late in the story. The severed head of a red-haired girl is found preserved in a peat bog in Ireland, and it is quickly determined that she died 400 years ago. A local woman and her young son simply disappeared from the face of the earth two years ago, and academics from Dublin, come to investigate the bog discovery, have the feeling that the two events are somehow connected. (I don't see why anyone who didn't live between the covers of a mystery novel would think such a thing.) Investigations continue on parallel paths, one to discover the exact identity of the 400-year-old girl (which, again seems crucial for no particular reason) and two to discover what happened to the missing mother and son. To add to the lack of focus, there are three (or four, depending on how you count) sleuths, sometimes working together, other times working independently. Astonishingly, the two events DO turn out to be related, but through the course of the book nothing much seems to be at stake. On the other hand, the local color is well observed and described, and some of the characters are interesting enough to be worthy of sequels. Some good writing, and a pretty good series of events that don't shoe-horn very readily into a mystery novel.
Erin Hart has written a mystery embedded within a mystery. A lovely conundrum.
I truly enjoyed the section of the story about the bog body found by a farmer in the peat bog, which has amazing preservative qualities. An archeologist and pathologist are called in to determine what to do about the artifact and try to determine how old the specimen is. (400 years old)
Nora and Cormac, the scientists, become embroiled in the local mystery of a missing mother and child as they work to unravel clues about the bog girl known to them as cailin rua because of her wild red hair. The two mysteries become entwined as the novel progresses and the outcome is satisfying.
Some of the characters are stereotypes and a bit plastic, which makes it quite easy to determine who are red herrings and who are the main villains, and the plot surrounding the disappearance of Osborne's wife and child is weak; however, the plot thread about the bog girl is fascinating.
Some parts of the book drag a bit, but I do like the way the author weaves Irish folklore, tradition, and language into the novel. I also like the creativity of the story about the peat bog.
While he is cutting turf in a peat bog, an Irish farmer discovers the well preserved remains of a beautiful red headed girl. Archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are asked to investigate the find. As they spend time in the little town of Dunbeg, Cormac and Nora make discoveries about the unfortunate girl from the bog and also uncover clues in the recent disappearance of a mother and her young child.
When I got this book I thought the story would focus mainly on the girl found in the bog and the relationship between the 2 investigators on the project. In reality, the story revolves more around the mysterious disappearance of the local mother and child, and the lives and personalities of the Dunbeg townspeople. I enjoyed the look into small town Irish life and found the names, customs, geography and music very interesting.
My biggest complaint about the book was the constant use of foul language. Most of the male characters pepper their conversations with the F word, which completely jarred me out of the story. I know that some people overseas don't find the word as offensive as people in the U.S. do, but I found it really irritating.
When the perfectly preserved head of a red-haired young woman is found in a in a peat bog on a farm in County Galway, Ireland, archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are called in to consult on how long the head may have been there. Local police officer, Garrett Devaney, uses the discovery to resume his search for Mina Osborne and her son, whose disappearance two years ago still remains unsolved. Her husband, Hugh Osborne, has always been the main suspect and his land is located near the bog.
I wasn't initially gripped by the storyline but felt like the author did a good job of keeping the reader interested in the two mysteries: who does the severed head belong to and whatever happened to Mina Osborne? She switched between the two plots fairly seamlessly and her depiction of rural Ireland was believable and full of Irish folklore and superstition. This was the debut of a series featuring Nora Gavin and I will definitely try another one when I get the opportunity.
Excellent mystery featuring an archeologist and pathologist who begin to unravel an ancient mystery only to be caught up in a modern one. I liked learning more about Ireland and the Cromwell era from that country's perspective. Plus, our hero and heroine both turn out to have some of their own unsolved issues. They are assisted by a local Detective who also has his own demons to vanquish.
Character development seemed to run in fits and starts but knowing this is the first in a series, I'm guessing the author probably improves on that in subsequent entries-- I think there are 3-4 more to read.
My biggest disappointment? That I can't get the next Maguire/Gavin mystery via Overdrive. Here's hoping the library has a copy!
Like an archaeological dig site the plot of this book is revealed very slowly, in many layers upon layers. Numerous characters, plot and subplots galore, the storyline creeps along at a snail's pace and, as a rule, all of these things tend to get on my last nerve ... but not this time, because even though I was eager to find out the who, what, and why of everything, the waiting the worth it. Bravo, Erin Hart, on an excellent first novel. Looking forward to returning to the bogs of Ireland with you again, soon.