Review: Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

Friday, January 8, 2010

Title: Haunted Ground
Author: Erin Hart
Genre: Mystery
First Published: April 29, 2003
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Personal copy

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, A to Z Challenge
471 pages



Book summary
A grisly discovery is made deep in an Irish peat bog -- the perfectly preserved severed head of a red-haired young woman. Has she been buried for decades, centuries, or longer? Who is she and why was she killed? American pathologist Nora Gavin and archaeologist Cormac Maguire are called in to investigate, only to find that the girl's violent death may have shocking ties to the present -- including the disappearance of a local landowner's wife and son. Aided by a homicide detective who refuses to let the missing be forgotten, Nora and Cormac slowly uncover a dark history of secrets, betrayal, and death in which the shocking revelations of the past may lead to murder in the future....

I finished reading this book at lunch yesterday, but since then I have been puttering around gathering my thoughts. The truth is, right after finishing it, I was not sure what I felt. I definitely felt relieved, since there was a lot of jargon in it that I didn't care for, but I know I enjoyed it too.

My thoughts
Firstly, this is not an easy book to get into initially. I read the first page of the book many times before I felt comfortable in going ahead. As I said earlier, the first page is the most important page for me. I won't give up on a book after starting it, no matter how disillusioned the book makes me feel, but if the first page doesn't grip me, then I may not care for it much. Which is why, when I go to a book store to buy a random book, I read its first page before picking or dropping it. Now, I did give up on Haunted Ground a few times, but some of my friends kept insisting that the book is worth it in spite of the starting trouble. I guess I would say almost the same thing, but I would still prefer not to have to struggle for a few pages to get into the plot.

Haunted Ground has two good mysteries weaving in and out. Both suspenseful. Thrilling. And gripping. Erin Hart laid out the initial buildup pretty well, and switched between the two plots fluently, without letting one get way too ahead of the other.

One thing I enjoyed about Haunted Ground is Erin Hart's writing style. Just ponder this prose:
"And with the force of the blow, time seemed to telescope. The spaces between seconds allowed an almost unbearably acute perception of each sensation as it passed through him. He was conscious of the grinding sound of stone and mortar giving away, of sharp pain and snapping tree branches, then falling, falling into darkness, and the earth seeming to meet him too soon, with a shuddering thump. And then silence. A most pure and sublime silence roared in his ears as he struggled to take breath."
Such a beautiful paragraph, don't you think? Just to describe a man falling down.

There are many such wonderful passages, which are a delight to read.

I did have some qualms though while reading this book. One thing is the excessive technical jargon that went way over my head. I understand most of it was central and necessary to the story, but some kind of footnote would have been helpful.

As for the characters, I couldn't bond with them well. Although Erin Hart did give plenty of pages to some characters, I still felt something lacking, like an unfinished story. Some actions of the characters just weren't making sense to me.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed the book. I don't think I will pick the next book in the Nora Gavin / Cormac Maguire series right away, but I might get to it someday. One of the unfinished subplots in Haunted Ground concerns Nora Gavin's sister. After reading the blurb on the 3rd book, False Mermaid in this series, I gather that Erin Hart is focusing on this subplot in that book. So I am definitely curious to know where she takes that story.

Related books
Next books in the Nora Gavin/Cormac Maguire series:
- Lake of Sorrows, Released 2004?
- False Mermaid, To be released on March 2, 2010

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.
Did you find it as difficult to get into? If yes, what made you go on?
Are you planning to read the next two books?

2 comments:

Aye.Me? said...

I find it almost impossible to enjoy a book when there is even one main character that I don't like!

You have an award over at my blog. Reversing The Monotony :)

Aths said...

Aye.Me?, I agree I won't enjoy a book if so many aspects of it don't click for me. Thank heavens for the great twin mysteries in Haunted Ground!

Thanks for the award!