In a remote Irish village, a skeleton is found during construction work on an old farm. The local policeman, in trying to solve the mystery, has to dig deep into the past of the village and its inhabitants, and uncovers numerous secrets that hold the key to the case.
This whole book is almost offensively average in just about everything. The characters are strangely flat, in that a ton of information is shared about them, but there seems to be absolutely no way to really get a handle on them because Norton fails to bring them to life. It’s as if they were designed on a drawing board by just attaching a few attributes and a tragic background to them. The protagonist, Sergeant Collins, is just fat and slow and lonely, and oh, did I mention he is fat? And isn’t it funny that this fat guy is the police? There are three spinster sisters that lost their parents when they were young, and now they are spinsters, and their lives are tragic, tragic, tragic. Certain traits are trotted out ad nauseam, and it is the same with every character.
Also, the village itself is a problem because it seems fallen out of time, like it maybe is a place from the 50s or 60s instead of the 2010s; there is, for instance, a strange emphasis on land and landowning, and it is portrayed as a fact that people still married for land 20 years ago. I can’t believe that this was as normal in Ireland in the 90s as it is described in this book.
Then, there is the story itself. It could have been a nice mystery, but the progression is so slow and plodding, and the pacing so uneven, that it takes all the intrigue out of the book. There is a ton of background information on the characters and some past events but the flashbacks and digressions are too frequent and too detailed, which causes the main plot to get lost a few times. Norton probably wanted it to be more of an examination of small town life, where a lot happens under the surface and is kept secret while rumour and speculation on everything and everyone run rampant, than a straight-up whodunit, but I don’t think he is a good enough writer for that.
On top of that, the whole atmosphere is rather dreary and sad, with very little humour to lighten things up. So, what remains in the end is an unremarkable and rather depressing story with a confusing timeline that is also a bit boring at some times and a bit bland at others. Not recommended.