Haunted Ground

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Erin Hart’s first novel Haunted Ground, a gruesome discovery brings two people to the farmland surrounding Dublin where they find themselves exploring a local woman’s recent disappearance.

When a farmer finds the well-preserved head of a red-haired woman buried in the bog, archeologist Cormac McGuire and forensic pathologist Nora Gavin are called to investigate—and quickly determine that the head is centuries old. Nora, haunted by the unsolved murder of her sister, is especially eager to unravel the mystery of the red-haired girl, refusing to accept that she might never be identified and her death never explained.

Wealthy landowner Hugh Osborne invites Cormac and Nora to perform a routine archeological investigation of a nearby property. They move temporarily into Bracklyn House, the run-down mansion where Osborne lives with his widowed cousin Lucy Osborne and her troubled son. Osborne’s wife Mina and their own small son have been missing for nearly two years, and Osborne is rumored to be involved with a local farmer’s sister. Detective Garrett Devaney, luckless in his investigation of Mina Osborne’s disappearance, asks Nora and Cormac to report anything odd they might notice at Bracklyn House. Nora receives anonymous threats as she searches for proof that Osborne murdered his wife.

Hart’s characters are modern scientists but devoted to traditional Irish culture. Cormac plays the flute with an informal gathering of musicians at a local pub, Devaney plays the fiddle, and Nora sings old Irish tunes. Cormac, Nora, and Devaney will need not only police work and scientific methods, but also long-forgotten handwritten records and ancient songs to discover the fates of both Mina Osborne and the red-haired girl.