Sheila Connolly is no stranger to mysteries. She writes the Orchard an Museum ones. But, with the launch of her first County Cork mystery, Buried in a Bog, she brings to mind something that few mysteries do. Buried in a Bog is written with love, and it comes through in every page. Connolly is passionate about Ireland. She loves her ancestral land, its history, people, and culture, and she introduces it to readers through the eyes of a young American woman who knows little about it, other than it's her ancestral home. Maura Donovan may have arrived in Ireland as a stranger, but her family is no stranger to the people who welcome her. Unfortunately, someone isn't so happy to see her there.
Maura was raised by her Gran in South Boston after her father died and her mother disappeared. They never had much, and they both had to work hard, so Maura was surprised when her Gran made her promise to visit her home village in Ireland after her death, and left her money for the trip. There isn't much in the small village of Leap, but Gran's friend, Bridget Nolan, knew she was coming, and had made arrangements for her. Before she knew it, Maura, who knew no one in Ireland, had a place to stay, a car to use, and the offer of a temporary job at Sullivan's pub. Everyone seemed to know who she was, even the policeman who directed her around the bog where they had found a body. Maura had no idea she would hold the clue to the body's identity. When a man is found murdered the same night he was in Sullivan's, Maura only knows she saw him that night. But the person threatening her seems to think otherwise.
Maura Donovan is the perfect amateur sleuth for this series, allowing us to see the people and family relationships through fresh American eyes. Connolly's characters and their connections are wonderful. But, it's Ireland itself that shines in this book. The author introduces us to the land she loves in a story that welcomes Maura Donovan. This is a story and mystery involving family. As Maura, a young woman with no one left in the world, and nothing to return to, discovers roots in Ireland, she and the reader fall for the communities where, as Maura says, "Everyone knows your name". This is a story of discovery, discovering roots and discovering a mystery.
Connolly, as the best mystery writers do, make readers care about the victim, in this case, the man "Buried in a Bog". However, there's a layer of love in this one that's seldom seen in mysteries. Many readers skip the Acknowledgments in books. Don't skip them in this case. Connolly's own family history is important for background to this book. Maura Donovan uncovers more than murder when she travels to Ireland. Anyone with a trace of Irish in them, and all of us who wish we could claim an Irish connection, will welcome the first book in the County Cork series, Buried in a Bog. And, with a country with Ireland's history, there's certain to be fascinating murders and mysteries to come.
Sheila Connolly's website is www.sheilaconnolly.com.
Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425251898 (paperback), 293p.
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