This is a mystery starring a bunch of Irish people with a taste of the possibly-supernatural thrown in. It reads like Tana French wrote it when she was in eighth grade, before she learned to actually be good.
Nora’s sister Triona was murdered five years ago. She suspects her sister’s husband Peter, but the rich golden boy was never charged, and the murder is still unsolved. Nora fled home to Ireland to recover, but returns to her family’s relocated home in the States when she learns that Peter is getting remarried in five days. She wants to solve her sister’s murder before Peter has another potential victim ensnared. Also, she’s worried about her 11-year-old niece, who has no idea what happened to her mother or that her father is possibly a villain.
The coincidences come fast and furious as soon as Nora’s plane lands. Spoilers ahoy!
Her very first day back (with a five-day deadline, remember), she discovers:
- A clue in the library – a book, and a printout of a news story her sister had printed five years ago (no one had touched that book or shelf since?).
- The homeless man who was the only possible witness happens to be at the library that day, and happens to be wearing a bloody sweatshirt from Peter’s alma mater (five YEARS later).
- A cassette tape with a foreboding message her sister had left for her, leading her to a duffel bag full of clues in her parents’ house.
- Her sister’s secret job and close friend nobody knew about (that the cops hadn’t discovered for five years, but she just shows up in the neighborhood and clues fall out of the sky).
- Speaking of clues falling out of the sky, a seagull drops a clue from the sidebar mystery on her. Literally. On her.
- The fisherman who found another suspicious, possibly-related body just happens to be in the area where Nora’s car runs off the road after her brakes were tampered with. He saves her, waits at her side by the hospital, and gives her her sister’s lost cell phone, which had been hanging out in his tackle box for five years. He ends up moving in with Nora’s parents to learn English and go to med school at the end of the book, in the weirdest mega-happy Scooby Doo ending I’ve ever seen.
There are a dozen tinier coincidences all throughout the book. It almost feels like Nora is in a Westworld episode, and all of this is engineered specifically for her, so she can feel good about solving her sister’s murder. Plus, there’s a sad excuse for a love triangle that just doesn’t fit (because again, it’s been FIVE YEARS since the one dude has seen her). Also, somebody might be a selkie.
It’s a silly book. The red herrings are silly, the overwhelming coincidences are silly, and the whole thing just made me want to read the next Tana French, which thanks to narfna, I feel better about doing. Well-done but grim is way better than silly.