Janebbooks's Reviews > False Mermaid

False Mermaid by Erin Hart
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Jun 08, 2012

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Read in March, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars Irish mermaids and American murders, March 17, 2010

Hello Irish lovers, it's St. Patrick's Day 2010.

I just finished the third Erin Hart novel about an Irish archeologist, Cormac Maguire, and American pathologist, Nora Gavin, who have been studying ancient remains recovered from peat bogs in Ireland for three years and two full novels.

FALSE MERMAID is a bit of a diversion. Nora has left Ireland for her home in Saint Paul, Minnesota to probe her sister Triona's murder. Cormac's estranged father has resurfaced and lives in his Aunt Julia's home in western Ireland.

Lots of new characters. Frank Cordova, a Minnesota police detective with a haunted past, and his female partner: Holly Blume, a biologist at the University of Minnesota's Saint Paul campus; Peter Hallett, Nora's brother-in-law who is about to remarry; Elizabeth Hallett, Nora's eleven-year-old niece; Harry Shaughnessy, a Saint Paul vagrant with a bloodied Gaillard College sweatshirt and running shoes with false mermaid seeds in the soles; Natalie Russo, an American Olympian-bound rower; a Cambodian fisherman. And an interesting ginger-haired colleague of Cormac's from Dublin.

The colleague is Roz Byrne, a folklorist, who has come to Donegal to add to her collection of selkie stories. Selkies are seals that have slipped from their skins and walk about land as humans; they are considered mermaids by some. Roz is particularly interested in a Donegal woman who disappeared in 1896 and is believed to be a selkie who found her skin.

The disappearance of Mary Heaney in Donegal by Roz parallels the investigation of Triona's murder in Saint Paul by Nora.

Hart solves both mysteries but spends too much time in America. Her description of the landscapes and seascapes of Western Ireland only partially evoke the Irish sense of place so prominent in her other novels, HAUNTED GROUNDS and LAKE OF SORROWS. But the Irish myths, songs, and stories of seals and selkies are fascinating.

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