Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: The Book of Killowen by Erin Hart

The Book of Killowen (Nora Gavin, #4)
by Erin Hart
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
2013 Scribner
Hard Copy Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4516-3484-6
Genre: Fiction / Murder / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

After a year away from working in the field, archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are back in the bogs, investigating a ninth-century body found buried in the trunk of a car. They discover that the ancient corpse is not alone—pinned beneath it is the body of Benedict Kavanagh, missing for mere months and familiar to television viewers as a philosopher who enjoyed destroying his opponents in debate. Both men were viciously murdered, but centuries apart—so how did they end up buried together in the bog?

While on the case, Cormac and Nora lodge at Killowen, a nearby artists’ colony, organic farm, and sanctuary for eccentric souls. Digging deeper into the older crime, they become entangled in high-stakes intrigue encompassing Kavanagh’s death while surrounded by suspects in his ghastly murder. It seems that everyone at Killowen has some secret to protect.

My Thoughts
The Book of Killowen was a fascinating look at the methods taken to investigate bodies found in the bogs of Ireland.  Formerly surrounded by monasteries, the land is steeped in culture and discoveries waiting to be found, and I found the culture and historical knowledge in this book to be quite interesting.  With a current murder intertwined around the discovery of a ninth-century body, the investigation jumped back and forth between the two and I thought the processes for each were well-done.

Nora and Cormac return in this fourth installment of the series, and this time they are immersed in the lives of a group of people living nearby who have developed an organic farm community as well as a place for artists wishing to work in relative peace and seclusion.  As they immerse themselves in the community, they realize rather quickly that Killowen holds many secrets, some of which relate to the murder, and 'bog man', they are investigating.  While I enjoyed learning about the community and how such a community developed as it was quite fascinating, I have to admit that the secrets that many of the community members held were easily figured out by the way the author crafted the story. I tend to be very suspicious by nature anyways, and I easily figured out many of the twists and turns of the murder investigation, the 'who-dun-its', just not necessarily the actual reasons why.   This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel however, as I enjoyed seeing how all the characters played their individual roles, but it was rather easy to read between the lines.

This novel does tend to be very character driven, and because I had read the previous novels, many of the comments and actions by the characters made a lot of sense to me, and the author does assume that a reader has read the previous novels.  Does this detract from the enjoyment of this novel?  Not really, other than not fully understanding Nora's behaviour in this novel.  It makes sense if you've read the previous one though.  There was a theme about redemption and starting over this novel that was threaded throughout all of the stories and it was interesting learning about the different people and how they came to the community for healing.  I definitely enjoyed how the author threaded some of Ireland's more recent past into the story as well, with mention of bombings and other brief things, although the story was more about the immediate as well about the tenth century and the development of writing and reading.  

The Book of Killowen was an interesting glimpse into the world of monasteries and illuminated manuscripts that existed over one thousands years ago.  I also thought the author did a fantastic job highlighting the after-effects of a stroke victim and the frustrations both the family and the victim experience during rehabilitation. Both my father and my grandfather had a stroke and this resonated with me quite strongly.  And while the story was very heavily character-driven, I did feel like things were wrapped up far too neatly or happened far too easily in the form of coincidences for my liking. However, the writing style was very descriptive and interesting, and I am looking forward to another mystery in Ireland in the near future by this author.  


  1. Replies
    1. Love your comment! It's pretty much my reaction when I step into any bookstore or library. LOL

  2. Terrific review! The book sounds intriguing!