The Book of KillowenI’ve been waiting for this book since reading Erin Hart‘s last book, False Mermaid, published in 2010. I can understand the span between novels; each book in her Nora Gavin/Cormac Maguire series (four books so far) must require both creative invention and extensive research, as they combine mysterious deaths, a burgeoning romance, forensics, archaeology, as well as Irish history and myth.

That’s a winning combination for me. I love learning more about Ireland’s past, and Hart is scrupulous about sticking to historical and archeological facts as she weaves her fictions.

The main characters—Nora, a pathologist, and Cormac, an archeologist—have investigated several “bog bodies” remarkably preserved in the peat bogs that define Ireland’s topography. In Hart’s universe, these ancient remains also connect to more recent mysteries.

In The Book of Killowen, a bog body is found in the trunk of a gold Mercedes SL submerged in a Tipperary bog. The car belongs to Dublin philosopher Benedict Kavanaugh, a connoisseur of Irish illustrated manuscripts from the Middle Ages. Missing for the past few months, Benedict’s just been located—in the same trunk, beneath the bog man.

Unfortunately, this novel didn’t captivate me nearly as much as Hart’s earlier books—even though it has all the same components.

Nora and Cormac’s previously tumultuous romance seems to have ground into a dull complacency. (Nice for them but not for the reader.) The introduction of two police detectives conducting a parallel investigation created the need for repetitive conversations about the same clues. And while there are descriptions of the settings, I didn’t get that strong sense of place that I recall from Haunted Ground, Lake of Sorrows, and False Mermaid.

The Book of Killowen is still a good novel, just not up to the high standards Hart has set for herself. Hopefully just some growing pains in this series. I’ll still seek out her next book—although no doubt I’ll have to wait a few years at least.

I’ve also learned that Hart and her husband, Irish accordionist Paddy O’Brien, are slated to appear at the Irish Ceildhe Club of Rhode Island this fall. No details posted yet. (Apparently I just missed Hart’s book tour visit to Providence’s Books on the Square this spring.)