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False Mermaid (Nora Gavin #3)

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  1,696 Ratings  ·  272 Reviews
American pathologist Nora Gavin fled to Ireland three years ago, hoping that distance from home would bring her peace. Though she threw herself into the study of bog bodies and the mysteries of their circumstances, she was ultimately led back to the one mystery she was unable to solve: the murder of her sister, Tríona. Nora can’t move forward until she goes back—back to he ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Scribner (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Oct 12, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Erin Hart sent me and Advance Reader Copy.
In False Mermaid, Nora Gavin returns to St. Paul for Ireland intent on finding out the truth of her sister's death. It took a little longer thatn usual for this one to catch me, but then I was caught up in the Twins run for the Pennant while I was reading. Nonetheless, having LOVED Erin's Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows, I kept on and found myself "mired" in the story as Nora skulks along the banks of the Mississippi looking for clues. Fans of the previous two books will be happy to know that ...more
Mar 13, 2010 Brooke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2010
I think this one was greater than the sum of its parts; I'd give this a 2.5 if I could. False Mermaid is the third Nora Gavin mystery. In Haunted Ground (which was lovely) and Lake of Sorrows (a solid mystery), we'd heard hints about Nora's murdered sister and the mark the unsolved mystery has left on her. False Mermaid has Nora traveling back to the US from Ireland in order to finally solve the mystery.

The cold case nature of the crime led to one of the book's weaknesses - I'm not sure that I b
Rating: 3.5/5*****

False Mermaid is the third book in a series that began with Haunted Ground and continued through Lake of Sorrows. All three books focus on Nora Gavin, an American pathologist who has been living in Ireland studying bog bodies, those bodies that have been trapped and preserved in the bog land of the country. In her work she has come to care for Cormac McCarthy, an archaeologist. An undercurrent in the first two books is the story of Nora’s sister Triona, who had been murdered se
Mar 24, 2010 Zarina rated it really liked it
I became a fan of Erin Hart's writing after reading Haunted Ground: A Novel which had as its central character American forensic pathologist Nora Gavin, and the story in Haunted Ground was set in Ireland, centering around the mystery of a decapitated head belonging to a flame-haired lass nicknamed the Cailin Rua found in a peat bog. Together with Irish archaeologist Cormac Macguire, the pair attempt to solve the mystery, whilst finding themselves involved in another mystery of a missing mother a ...more
May 20, 2011 Suziqoregon rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2011
My blog post about this book is at this link.
May 16, 2010 Ellen rated it liked it
A bit too much serendipity and seal intervention for my taste, but I kept turning the pages to see how it would turn out. A satisfying tale.
May 18, 2010 Karlan rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Karlan by: Bill Ott
Shelves: adult
I read few mysteries, but this one was hard to put aside. The Irish selkie legends and a 19th c murder are entwined with a contemporary crime in Minnesota. The characters seem real and the plot scary as the heroine comes closer to a solution.
Albert Riehle
Jun 05, 2010 Albert Riehle rated it it was ok
The cover boasts the entwining of Irish myth and murder mystery in minnesota. I suppose the Irish people in Minnesota might think that's a great idea but I didn't.

Blah, blah selpies. Blah, blah someone killed my sister and I've done nothing about it for 3 years. Blah, blah there's a hot Irish stud named Cormac. The end.
Jul 08, 2010 Sarai rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I wanted to be blown away by it based on a couple of reviews I'd read. But I was not blown away. I would like to have given it a 3.5 rating.

What didn't I like? I felt like the ending was supposed to be a surprise, but it was not. And the actions the characters took in the ending - I don't believe you, I don't believe you, oh, maybe I do believe you - seemed contrived.

There were elements of the mystical in the book, but they were not true mystical stuf
Oct 17, 2010 Mel rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-as-an-adult
Every character in this book has a tragedy in their life. A parent who has lost a child; a child who has lost a parent; a man who loses a brother; a woman who has lost a sister; a man who is estranged from his father; a Cambodian refugee who lost his entire family - enough already! In addition to those tortured souls we have a very forced selkie plot line. Erin Hart's third Nora Gavin novel was just too much of everything. If it was her first book I suspect fewer people would have read book numb ...more
Kathleen Hagen
False Mermaid, by Erin Hart, b-plus, narrated by Roslyn Landor, produced by Audible Inc. and downloaded from

Nora, a pathologist, fled from her home in St. Paul to Ireland to put distance between herself and the murder of her sister-a murder that went unsolved. Nora has always believed that her brother-in-law planned and maybe committed the murder. She has finally gone back to Minnesota to try to put the mystery to rest. Also, she believes that her niece may be in danger from her fat
Nov 20, 2010 Jmm rated it really liked it
Cormac Maguire stands in an abandoned fisherman's cottage near Port na Rón, Ireland, and thinks about Mary Heaney, whose disappearance from this house more than a hundred years ago was explained away by claims that she was a selkie who had returned to the sea. As Cormac pulls a lone decaying woman's shoe from under an iron bedframe, he says to Roz, the woman who first told him of the mystery surrounding Mary Heaney's sudden disappearance, “Isn't it strange, though? Who leaves home wearing only o ...more
Maybe 3.25 stars. False Mermaid is better than the second book in this series and I do intend to continue on to read the fourth in the series. I am relieved to have the heroine's own personal mystery story line solved but there were a lot of crazy coincidences. These coincidences bring the rating down. Still False Mermaid is a decent tale that crosses through multiple settings -- Seattle, Minneapolis, and Ireland and weaves in Celtic myth, Celtic culture and magical realism. By these interwoven ...more
First Sentence: Death was close at hand, but the wounded creature leapt and twisted, desperate to escape.

Pathologist Nora Gavin has been working in Ireland and living with Cormac Maguire. Three years ago, her sister, Tríona, was murdered and although her husband, Peter, was suspected, nothing could be proven. Now that he’s about to remarry, Nora returns home afraid for both her niece, Elizabeth, and Peter’s fiancée, as well as determined to find out the truth. Back in Ireland, Cormac visits his
In this, the third instalment of the Nora Gavin/Cormac Maguire mystery series, Nora, a pathologist, has returned from Ireland to Minnesota with the firm intent to finally prove her brother-in-law Peter Hallett guilty of murdering her sister five years earlier. She is very concerned now that her niece is older that she could be in danger from her father as well. She renews her connection with Frank Cordova, the police investigator who was one of the few who believed her, not realizing he believes ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Tiffaney rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tiffaney by: Kristen
The last of the Nora Gavin series, though we are hoping for more installments.

I loved the weaving of the plot line and couldn't predict what was coming next, unlike with most books I read. The author brought the idea of bog bodies to the States, which I wasn't expecting either. Highly recommended.
Dec 01, 2011 Hannah rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysteries, 2011-reads
Rating Clarification: 2.5 Stars

After enjoying the first two books in the series, this one, I'm sorry to say, was a disappointing read for me. Too many perfectly plotted coincidences, too much magical realism (which I enjoy when it makes sense within the context of a particular story - but not in this one), a tepid romance (I'm still not sold on Nora and Cormac's love story, regardless of how often Hart tells the reader that it is in the "soul mate" realm) and far too many eye-rolling moments w
Sep 21, 2012 Meg rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This book was a letdown for me. After two decent novels that I enjoyed, this one was so hard to get interested in. granted, Minnesota will never be as historically interesting as Ireland but the focus on the story being so much on the sister and her murder didn’t interest me. I really only continued to read two book for two reasons: One, book-obsession to complete the trilogy, and Two, to find out if she was wrong in her supposition that Peter was the murderer.

All of the Cormac sections were nea
May 16, 2012 Catherine rated it it was amazing
This was my second read of this murder mystery cum faerie story. I know I've found a keeper when I can read a book multiple times, and even more so when it is a mystery. I love Erin's books because they flit gently over the boundary into imagination and back to reality effortlessly, taking me deeper into the feelings behind the facts. Her characters are fully fleshed, and her protagonists very likable. I love the settings both in the far away, ethereal Emerald Isle, and in the more familiar, but ...more
Carl Brookins
Jun 10, 2012 Carl Brookins rated it really liked it

As I and others sometimes remark, Crime Fiction writing is really about the creation of fantasies, regardless of how realistic and true to life the stories may be. Which brings me to the latest mystical, mysterious story from the mind of that very Irish author, Erin Hart. I will say I was not enthralled by her first, “Haunted Ground.” But one of the joys of following authors is to experience their development and improvement. This is a most elegant and excellent novel.

A warning; if you aren’t in
Feb 24, 2013 Martha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, irish
So far I've really enjoyed Erin Hart's books, but this one was a disappointment, although I had no trouble finishing it. It just felt too over the top--too many overly tragic backstories, and character motivations and behavior seemed unrealistic. I knew things were going downhill when Nora, the heroine, found a book with spine turned inward at the St. Paul library, which had supposedly not been touched for five years. I don't know anything about their collection management practices, but I find ...more
Mar 03, 2013 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was probably one of the most intriguing and well-written books I've read in a long time (and I read a lot of books). It had everything one would want from a novel: a unique and differentiated cast of characters, a plot that was part mystery, part thriller, part family drama, all wrapped up in a fascinating motif of Celtic myth and legend. This is one of those books that is a joy to open up each and every time while you're reading it and one for which you close the book at last with a great ...more
Clarissa Simmens
Mar 24, 2013 Clarissa Simmens rated it really liked it
Lovely, mystical mystery with an unfamiliar (to me) folklore component.
Jun 25, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense
YET AGAIN I lost the review I was writing, in progress! Why does the re-write never seem as brilliantly insightful?!?

As I was saying... this series just gets better & better, in my opinion. I adore Hart's integration of Irish folklore and music -- and the way the story develops thru the inclusion of the same. The Welsh/Irish in me loved the way music is key to the characters (as it is for me), from Delaney & Roisin, to Cormac, to Roz, to Nora herself. I loved the tale of Mary Heaney so m
Feb 07, 2014 Erin rated it liked it
Pretty good read...more just for entertainment. In general, I'm not the biggest "mystery" fan. Same pet peeves as before with this author...unrealistic police type stuff. For example, detectives most definitely DO NOT drive around with the boxes of investigation files in their personal cars or allow the sister of a murdered victim to peruse them and help with the official part of the investigation. Also, the main character, Nora who is a Dr. seems to be a fairly intelligent person, yet she consi ...more
Charland Garvin
Sep 18, 2016 Charland Garvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who likes mysteries
Well, I am thoroughly enchanted with Erin Hart's books. You become entangled with the story and love Nora and Cormac as characters. She writes well and I've enjoyed the Irishness of the books - you feel you are with all the happenings. I am just sorry I have already read her latest (my first book written by her) - and darn if it wasn't just released not too long ago. So I already know it is going to be a wait, an impatient one.
Kristi Lamont
Jul 01, 2015 Kristi Lamont rated it it was ok
I do so wish I'd liked this more than I did, because of the Ireland/magical/mystical aspect. As a detective procedural it was above average, but something about the characters just never clicked with me. Won't be reading any more in this series, but will go away pleased to have once again come across this important truth in fiction: "The barman smiled. 'Ah, sure, no one believes the old stories anymore. But like my granny used to say, that doesn't mean they aren't true.' "
Laura Edwards
May 03, 2016 Laura Edwards rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennie Menke
Oct 10, 2016 Jennie Menke rated it it was ok
This book was utterly ridiculous. The Ireland and Minnesota stories hardly related at all. The folklore aspect was -- am I just dumb? -- totally ambiguous and forced. Are we really to believe the one-eyed seal is a -- what? Magic creature?

And the coincidences.

And number of instances where Nora "couldn't confide in (mother, father, boyfriend, colleague...)" were too numerous to count.

It's always a bad sign when i start bookmarking pages in the Kindle to back up my opinion for bookclub discussi
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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 ...more
More about Erin Hart...

Other Books in the Series

Nora Gavin (4 books)
  • Haunted Ground (Nora Gavin, #1)
  • Lake of Sorrows (Nora Gavin, #2)
  • The Book of Killowen (Nora Gavin, #4)

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“We’re made out of the water, the earth, the air of the places that fed our ancestors, quenched their thirst, the basic elements of the places that gave them life. Is it really so strange if we feel the heave and pitch of those places, even centuries later, in the vibrations of our atoms?” 1 likes
“From the poorest places came the richest music—it had always been that way.” 1 likes
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