One wet November morning, a field on Meagher’s Farm gives up the dismembered bones of eleven women. In this part of Ireland, unmarked graves are common. But these bones date to 1915, long before the Troubles. What’s more, these bones bear the marks of a meticulous executioner. These women were almost certainly skinned alive.
Detective Katie Maguire, of the Cork Garda, is used to dead bodies. But this is wholesale butchery. Her team think these long-dead women are a waste of police time. Katie is determined to give them justice.
And then a young American tourist goes missing, and her bones, carefully stripped of flesh, are discovered on the same farm. With the crimes of the past echoing in the present, Katie must solve a decades-old ritualistic murder before this terrifying killer strikes again.
What’s it about?
It is about a police officer, Katie Maguire, and her pursuit of a killer who she suspects is attempting to complete a ritual which has its roots in Irish mythology. She is dealing with a current killer whilst working out how it ties in with an 80 year old crime that appears to be identical.
Where is it set?
It is set in and around Cork in Ireland.
Who is the main character?
The main character is Superintendant Katie Maguire, the only woman detective on the force, and as this is the first book in a proposed series it is impossible at this stage to say who the other continuing characters will be. There are police officers that I suspect will be carried forward, and there is a potential love interest that I am keen to see continue but until we get book 2 we don’t know if they will appear again.
How well is it written?
It was very well written in the sense that there was a decent plot, a believable (just) conclusion, more or less believable characters in the police department etc and the narrative made sense (there were no obvious plot holes or contradictions). However, I didn’t like the way that even though it was set in Ireland and was about Irish myths and featured Irish characters the language was very much American, which didn’t sit well with me. The spellings are one thing (“tires”, “travelers”, “colors” etc), but the thing that really bugged me was the names of things that were clearly American and just do not have a place in Ireland. For example, during a car chase we are told that the rain was hitting the “windshield” and the other car scraped the “fender” and the cars ended up crossing the “sidewalk” before coming to a stop. No no no no!!! That might well have happened in America, but in Ireland? No. It didn’t detract from the overall story, but it provided enough of a distraction to annoy me throughout.
My overall impression?
I enjoyed it a lot and the central character of Katie Maguire has stayed with me several days after finishing it. However, so too has the mental images I’ve got of the torture inflicted on the victims which I found sickening and horrifying in equal measure as I read it. I thought the passages describing the torture in so much detail was totally gratuitous and didn’t need to be written like that. I am not normally squeamish and I can handle horror stories and all that, but this was supposed to be a crime thriller and the sickening descriptions didn’t have a place here. The story was good enough without them. I made the mistake twice of reading this before bedtime and I had to do a Sudoku puzzle afterwards to clear my mind and so I didn’t have nightmares.
The worst bits were where the killer was defleshing the first victim (I won’t go into detail but suffice to say I’ll never look at pipe lagging the same way again), and the aftermath of the car bomb.
However, I did like the references to mythology and the historical background to the sinking of the Lusitania, and I appreciated the mini history lesson about Irish beliefs and practices. It would have been useful to have had a pronunciation list somewhere though!
Will I read the next in the series?
I’m not sure. I have tried to find out if there will be another in the series but haven’t had much success tracking it down just yet, but as the title of the book refers to Katie Maguire #1 then I think there will be a sequel sometime. If there is as much horror in it as this one then no I won’t read it but if it is more weighted towards the crime thriller aspect then yes I will. I haven’t read any Graham Masterton before and I whilst tracking down book 2 I realised that he specialises in horror so I’m not holding much hope that poor Katie Maguire will be left to do her job in peace without the overly horrific descriptions of the damage done to the victims again.
Would I recommend it to my friends?
Only to those who have a strong stomach and who aren’t offended by descriptions of sadistic torture and extreme injuries inflicted on other people. If you suffer from nightmares or have anything less than a moderately delicate constitution then don’t read this book.