Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/
When a farmer in Cork unearths human bones on his land, Katie Maguire, Cork Garda’s only female detective, is drawn into a horrifying murder case. The remains of eleven bodies are eventually uncovered. All were women, all look like they were skinned alive, and all the bones are revealed to have been there since 1915. Going against advice to leave this cold case alone and investigate more contemporary crimes, Katie is moved to discover what happened to these women and why they were killed in such a horrific way. Then a young American tourist goes missing, and her bones turn up in the same state – the flesh stripped from the skeleton, her bones arranged in the same ritualistic way on the same farm.
I remember Graham Masterton from the days he dominated the horror shelves, and there is certainly more than a touch of horror in this crime thriller. This is one seriously sick killer. The skin and flesh is scraped from the victims while they are still alive and conscious, so they are forced to watch their own legs being reduced to skeletons.
Irish mythology underscores this plot, and there is a very interesting discussion about faith at one point. How can you dismiss a mythical figure such as a demon or a witch as being fictional, if you accept that God – arguably an equally mythic figure – is real? The mythology provides an interesting back story to what is a gripping thriller. However, the violent scenes may be too gory for some readers, and though I found Katie Maguire an interesting character there were some aspects of her background that jarred. The prejudice she faces as a woman detective is maddening enough – and if misogyny in Ireland is really as bad as it is portrayed in this book I have no desire to go there – but the guilt she carries around over the death of her child, as if she could have prevented it had she not been a working mother, seems a cliché. The child’s death is there to point to when the relationship between Katie and her husband Paul began to dissolve, but this is too often used in fiction as such a marker. There are a hundred reasons why marriages go wrong, and it would be nice to occasionally get one of the other 99.
On the whole though, I enjoyed this book. It’s a suspenseful read with a likeable main character, and I await with interest the next Katie Maguire book