St. Patrick’s Day will be here soon! For those of you that focus your reading on holiday/cultural themed books, the list below features Irish writers and/or novels set in Ireland. Some are modern classics, some are newbies, but all are entertaining reads. You’re sure to find a title in the list of 26 Irish Mysteries that you will want to read again and again.
- Lisa Alber: “Whispers in the Mist”
- S. Furlong-Bollinger: “Paddy Whacked”
- Sheila Connelly: "Buried in a Bog"
- Carlene O'Connor: "Murder in an Irish Village"
- Kathi Daley: “Shamrock Shenanigans”
- Frank Delaney: "Shannon"
- Nelson Demille: “Cathedral”
- Andrew Greeley: “Irish Tweed”
- Jane Haddam: “A Great Day for the Deadly”
- Lyn Hamilton: “The Celtic Riddle”
- Lee Harris: “The St. Patrick's Day Murder”
- Erin Hart: “Haunted Ground” review here
- Jonathan Harrington: “A Great Day for Dying”
- Mary Anne Kelly: "Twillyweed"
- Amanda Lee: “The Long Stitch Good Night”
- Wendi Lee: “The Good Daughter”
- Dan Mahoney: “Once in, Never Out”
- Leslie Meier: “St. Patrick's Day Murder”
- Ralph M. McInerny: “Lack of the Irish”
- Stuart Neville: "Ghosts of Belfast”
- Sister Carol Anne O’Marie: “Death Takes Up A Collection”
- Helen Page: "Equal of God"
Janet Elaine Smith: “In St. Patrick's Custody”
- JJ Toner: “St. Patrick's Day Special”
- Peter Tremayne: “The Devil’s Seal”
- Kathy Hogan Trochek: “Irish Eyes”
If your favorite Irish Mysteries are not on the list, let me know and I’ll add them!
Happy choosing and reading!
Erin Hart’s debut novel, "Haunted Ground," opens with Brendan McGann digging for peat to use as winter fuel, a ritual his ancestors have practiced in that very spot in East Galway as far back as anyone can remember. He is used to finding odd bits of pottery, but this day, he finds a woman’s head buried in the bog.
Cormac Maguire, a Dublin archeologist helping out the National Museum, is asked to oversee the excavation in order to preserve this rare find. Dr. Nora Gavin, an American lecturer with Irish roots, has a special interest in bog bodies and is also notified. And so are the police, who are looking for a missing woman married to a local landowner, Hugh Osborne.
The unique properties of the bogs have been known to preserve artifacts, bodies, and even food for centuries and they hold a fascination for archeologists. There is no sign of Osborne’s wife, but Maguire and Gavin get caught up in the mystery of discovering who the centuries old red-haired woman was and how only her perfectly preserved head came to be there. The policeman continues his own, mostly single-minded, investigation.
Yes, there is more than one puzzle to be solved. When asked to stay around in order to complete an archeological survey for Osborne, Maguire agrees and devastating secrets from the modern era are revealed. It seems as if everyone in "Haunted Ground" wrestles with family issues of one sort or another – a marriage in trouble, a lost love, a tragic disappearance, middle-age crisis, family shame, revenge, and more. The conflicts feel real and we want to see them resolved, as well as follow the mysteries to their conclusion.
The subplots reveal Hart’s love for Irish music, infusing the storyline through several characters. Maguire is a flutist in his free time and Nora, it turns out, has a hauntingly beautiful voice. Devaney, the policeman, plays a fine fiddle and uses his music to bond with his daughter. We learn of the small pubs where songs both old and new can be heard. Ah, to be there on a night when the locals play their hearts out, merely for the love of the tune and maybe a pint of Guinness.
In real-life, the entire bog system is under scrutiny by environmentalists because not only is peat a non-renewable resource, the bogs are wildlife habitats, home to species found nowhere else in Europe. There are factions that would have all bog digging banned for commercial use.
My own memories of the green hills of Ireland were stirred by Hart’s description of the lush countryside. I had not thought of the east to west differences in years, the shift from city to villages, the changes in terrain, language, music and even the pace of life. In "Haunted Ground," Hart gives us an insider’s view of the culture and wonderful history of the area. The reader will feel as if Hart is chatting about home.
"Haunted Ground" was nominated for the Anthony and Agatha awards, and won the Romantic Times Best First Mystery award. There have been three additional, very successful books in the series featuring Cormac and Nora.
Please visit www.erinhart.com to see what Hart is up to now. In addition to her writing, she conducts yearly tours in Ireland, with a select few readers. Check into this year’s itinerary for Hart of Ireland. There may still be time to sign up for the September trip.
This lovingly written novel deals with the underlying subject of The Easter Uprising, a turnaround time in Irish politics. Ireland had been under English rule since 1169, an uneasy union at best, and at its worst, a blood-soaked thorn in the English side. Many in Ireland resented having to work in virtual servitude for English Lords who robbed them of their land or sent resources back to England. That resentment exploded in Dublin on a sunny Easter Sunday in 1916.
“After the Rising” begins in 1995, with Jo’s notification of her mother’s death. Jo travels to the village of Mucknamore, Ireland, all the way from San Francisco in the USA, filled with guilt and grief and anger. Jo hasn’t been back in twenty years. She hears the Will and at first, refuses to follow its directive: create a family history from the notes and letters left behind in a blue suitcase. Jo doesn't want to be in Mucknamore, let alone write about the very people that drove her crazy. But, she needs to exorcise her demons and the story begins in earnest, drawing us in as Jo tries to break free.
Three generations of women from Jo’s family tell their stories in the letters. Stories of the war between the Irish and the English, the formation of the IRA as well as other Irish factions, the role of strong women in the fighting. This is a profoundly personal political book, bringing to life an aspect of 'the troubles' accepted, but not usually discussed: the divisions of families, lovers, neighbors, and neighborhoods. Best friends take sides and become enemies, each passionate about their view, each well meaning. Disagreements about the ‘English problem’ divide a nation within and blood is shed for decades.
Ross has woven a mature tale of forbidden love lost and remembered in sometimes explicit detail, of women who yearned to have a larger role in the fight for Irish freedom, of three generations frustrated by the fact that they had so few options in a male-dominated Irish culture. Each of the women faces a challenge unique to her generation and has to make a heart-rending decision.
Wexford County, Ireland, is beautifully described: a mix of new apartment blocks, old bungalows and cemeteries “with patchworks of crosses and slabs of stone staring over a low wall at the sea.” Ross’s word pictures happily reminded me of a road trip I had taken through that area a number of years ago.
“After the Rising” is remarkable in the spot-on glimpse into how we regard our own parents and grandparents. (Could my gray-haired great-grandmother who could barely take care of herself, ever have been a freedom fighter who carried grenades under her coat?) As Jo reads through the contents of the blue suitcase, she begins to understand her mother’s decisions, but grieves anew at the love left unspoken, at the memories never shared. She is staggered by the unbearable family mysteries revealed for the first time.
I downloaded an early version of “After the Fall,” initially self-published only in ebook form. My copy had formatting glitches, but Ms. Ross has re-issued the ebook and has promised that the problems have been corrected. A paperback version is now available as well. A sequel, “Before the Fall,” which continues the saga of Jo and her family, has been published in both ebook and paperback form.
Orna Ross, an Irish author, is the founder of ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors. For more information about Orna Ross, her work in self-publishing, and her novels, visit www.ornaross.com