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Monday, November 29th 2004

5:45 PM

Haunted Ground has all the elements of a great history mystery.

Corpses missing body parts, two mysteries centuries apart, music, romance and a genealogy that ties everything together are found in Erin Hart's first novel Haunted Ground. Set in Ireland and highlighting the mystery inherent in all history, Haunted Ground has all the elements of a great history mystery. Nora Gavin an American pathologist and Irish archeologist Cormac Maquire become involved in trying to determine the identity of a red-haired woman while at the same time trying to find the whereabouts of a local Irish woman and her child missing for nearly two years. Irelands bogs, traditional music and tumultuous history play an interregnal part in the entire story. As the story progresses Nora and Cormac's attraction to one another intensifies.

Hart writes two wonderful mysteries that have separate story lines that intersect in peoples lives, time and place. The red-haired woman's head has been severed and dumped in to a centuries preserving bog, but the woman's body is nowhere to be found. Good pathology, historical research, and a bit of luck begin to piece together a possible identity for the body-less woman. While searching for these clues Gavin and Maquire search for and stumble on to clues to what happened to the missing woman and her child

Hart has a way of allowing Gavin and Maquire to be central to the story, while exploring the thoughts and feelings of the supporting characters as well. The story lines of these characters are as enjoyable as the relationships between the main characters and the two mysteries.

Hart has a wonderful feel for history and the pains-taking effort involved in historical research. Her characters have a feel for the pleasure a researcher gets from sifting through the everyday of history to find little details that sketch out a person or an event. Archeologist Maquire muses that "It's easy to get caught up in the methodology, in all the highly technical aspects of what we do, ,,,,,But that's just our way of seeking knowledge, it's not the essence of what we're about. Keep in mind that our main concern is people---we learn about ourselves by studying those who have come before." Later he comments on the mundane aspect of his research by saying "all those thousands of straightforward textbook cases before you get to the one really interesting anomaly. Isn't it this part, the sifting through the ordinary, that makes breakthrough moments all the more memorable?" If Hart hadn't let me know that Gavin was a pathologist and Maquire an archeologist I'd swear they were genealogists! If you love the mystery of the past and digging through the ordinary to find answers, Haunted Ground is a great read. Perhaps even the best of my reads in 2004.

Haunted Ground.  2003.  Erin Hart.  ISBN 0743470990

Also by Erin Hart:  Lake of Sorrows.  2004.  The continuing story of Nora Gavin and Comic Mquire.  ISBN 0743247963

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