A Taste of Ireland’s “Haunted Ground”

Book review submitted by Kim Hathaway

Haunted Ground
Haunted Ground
When farmers cutting turf in an Irish peat bog make a grisly discovery, the perfectly intact body of a young woman with long red hair….

After wearing out my tiny iPod shuffle, my husband thought I had mastered the technology and was ready for the “real McCoy.” For Christmas 2006 he gave me an 80G iPod classic. I feverishly tried to fill it with music, but still it had tons of empty space.

Around the same time, I developed my obsession with my Irish Ancestry and the Irish Fireside on iTunes. I downloaded and listened to all of the episodes available in a very short time and still wanted more Irish history, folklore, culture, music whatever as long as it was Irish.

Having completely exhausted the Irish Fireside Podcast library and in fact listened to all the free Ireland-related stuff from iTunes, I became a member of www.audible.com, a website for downloading audio books, and limited my searches to the subject of Ireland. I was planning my first trip to the “Fair Isle” in the fall of 2007 and really wanted to know about the REAL Ireland.

Enter Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

In 2006, not much came up on those Irish searches except pure history, some Gaelic language downloads and some classics like James Joyce etc., which I was interested in, but the narrators were mind-numbing and recording quality not so stellar. Then one day, two books Lake of Sorrows and Haunted Ground popped out at me. I had never heard of the author Erin Hart, but her books looked interesting.

I downloaded Haunted Ground the first of Hart’s two books. It was about Ireland which was all that really mattered. I listened to the preview and loved the narrator’s voice which had a lovely and natural Irish accent. So off I went on my walk with the audiobook playing in my ears. I did my usual routte and when I found myself home, I scarcely could recall any part of my walk or how I had gotten home or where I had been. It was like I was in a trance because I was so engrossed in the story.

Haunted Ground is a murder mystery that brings in all of the mystical folklore, culture and superstitions of the West of Ireland and the Midlands and a good bit of history. But, there is an additional twist of originality; it is based around American pathologist Dr. Nora Gavin, troubled by the violent death of her sister and Irish archeologist (her romantic interest) Cormac McGuire. The story plays out around forensic study of relics and ancient bodies found in the Irish bogs. It weaves from the past Druidic rituals to a present day murder, and gossip surrounding the disappearance of woman and back around the townspeople and their small town, customs, culture, drama and superstitions.

The setting for Haunted Ground is in the West of Ireland around Co Galway, Roscommon and Athlone (where I happen to have family. Bonus)! Dr. Nora Gavin Pathologist who is lecturing in Trinity College has escaped her home in Milwaukee after her sister’s tragic death. She is called to help investigate an Iron Age body found in a farmer’s bog in Drumcleggen. She is joined by Cormac McGuire from University of Dublin and the story unfolds.

Nora of course becomes romantically interested in her colleague while researching the bog body. They are put up in an old manor house owned by the local landowner who lives there with his cousin and her troubled son. There are oodles of secrets and intrigue and tension surrounding the family of the manor house and the families of the neighboring village.

Erin Hart’s story is somewhat comparable to Patricia Cornwell who writes the Kay Scarpetta forensic pathologist stories. Great detail and research is evident in her description of the investigation and forensics, the culture, customs and history of Ireland and the relics and study of the boglands set it apart from Cornwell.

Through the process of unlocking the mysteries of the bog, the reader is introduced to the characters that develop into very believable figures that readers can identify with. Ms. Hart is extremely talented in her writing skills. There is traditional music, poetry, dance and depiction of the Galway countryside. I am not sure why this was not more popular as it is so well done. Most of the reviews I read rated it excellent, but went into great detail in terms of the plot. I don’t want to give it away so I will sum it up by saying it is a terrific read for anyone, but sensational for someone who is interested in Ireland.

Erin Hart was raised in Minnesota where she co-founded an Irish Music and Dance Association. Through her love of Irish culture she met her husband accordion player Paddy O’Brien; and yes he is Irish. Her association with Irish music and dance brought her to Ireland which inspired Haunted Ground. It is based on the real discovery of “the red haired girl” or “cailín rua” in the bog. “Cailín rua” was the head of a beautiful woman with long red hair who was violently killed around 1600. The head was discovered by farmers and was extremely well preserved.

If you choose to experience this book in audio, may I just say the narrator Jennifer McMahon, has the voice of an Irish angel. I could listen to her forever! She has a beautiful tone to her voice. The quality of the recording is exceptional as well.

Recording quality has little to do with Audible, and more to do with the original production. A word of caution here; always listen to the preview before purchasing from www.audible.com to be sure you are happy with how it will sound. But no worries with Haunted Ground; It has a very strong and well-written story and high quality narration. If you enjoy the Irish Fireside, there is no way you could be disappointed with Erin Hart!

To read more about Erin Hart check out her very interesting and informative blog at http://erinhartbooks.blogspot.com/


Kim Hathaway… now from Hobe Sound, FL

The Irish Fireside has partnered with Audible to offer a free download to new www.audible.com subscribers. Click the links in this post to take advantage of the offer. A portion of your purchase will go to helping the Irish fireside.

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