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False Mermaid
Nora Gavin Mysteries, No 3
Erin Hart

2010/ ISBN 9780416563761

Reviewed by L J Roberts

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 father who abandoned him and his mother when he was young. However, a severe heart attack may end things before they truly get started.

After a very compelling opening, the story was a bit slow getting into, but well
worth staying with. Ireland is always an appealing setting for the story and the sense of being there was certainly much stronger than being in Minnesota.
The characters were not very well developed and, with the exception of Cormac’s father, neither were they particularly interesting and the angst surrounding them became heavy-handed and overwhelming. What saved them was the quality of the dialogue which captured both the characters and the locales.

The plot with its dual threads was brought together in satisfactory manner at the end but the folktale really could have been omitted, making the story stronger by having each thread be a traditional mystery, and there were several rather large coincidences which felt awkward. What was well done were the descriptions were occasionally filled with a great sense of poignancy. Hart did capture the tragedy and pain of a family who has lost a child. There was a good building of the suspense and an effective twist, although it was broadcast a little too soon. The second twist, however, was extremely effective.

“False Mermaid” felt a bit overwritten and heavy-handed at times; not quite certain what it wanted to be. Even so, it was an enjoyable read with an effective ending.

Reviewer's Note: More on author Erin Hart
Reviewed 2011
© 2011