Scribner, May 2003, 24.00, 352 pp.
While working his land cutting up peat, farmer Brendan McGann uncovers the well preserved severed head of a red hair woman. Apparently the local peat conserved what later proves to be a three-century-old head. Since “Bog Bodies” are a popular pastime in Western Ireland, Archeology Professor Cormac Maguire is asked to look at the precious find. He quickly enlists anatomy expert Irish-American Nora Gavin to accompany him to evaluate the head.
Near the McGann farm in Dunbeg, townsfolk discuss the disappearance two years ago of the wife and toddler of wealthy Hugh Osborne. The spousal vanishing reminds Nora of the murder of her sister, killed in her mind by her brother-in-law. As Nora and Cormac work together, their attraction for one another grows. While they explore the peat find, Detective Devaney continues to investigate the missing Osbornes over the objection of his superior who demands his inquiry ends as a cold case.
Though the lead protagonists are more equals and begin falling in love, HAUNTED GROUND feels like a modern day rendition of the HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES with forensic science replacing Holmesian logic. The two professional visitors are a delightful pair trying to solve the peat mystery, but unable to resist involvement in the Osborne case especially Nora due to her sibling connection. The villagers with their suspicious nature of the outside invaders add a gothic atmosphere to a strong suspense thriller. Readers will appreciate this suspense tale that combines modern day forensic science with a three hundred-year-old murder and a current mystery that might be “buried” in the HAUNTED GROUND of the bogs.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner