Tag Archives: forensic archaeology

Lake of Sorrows


Title:  Lake of Sorrows (Nora Gavin Book 2)
Author:  Erin Hart
Publisher:  Scribner
Publication Date:  2004
ISBN:  978-1-4165-4130-1

Book Summary:
Pathologist Nora Gavin comes to the Irish midlands when a well-preserved body is discovered in the bog.  The man’s remains indicate that he was the victim of an ancient pagan sacrifice because of multiple wounds on his body; the Triple Death is evident by his strangulation, the slit of his throat, and the spikes driven into his arms. Also working the site is Ursula Downes who seems antagonistic towards everyone and happens to have had a former relationship with Nora’s boyfriend, Cormac Maguire.  When a second body is found in the bog with similar Triple Death markings, the research team is excited but then horrified.  This body can’t be ancient because of the wristwatch on the victim’s arm.

Cormac Maquire also arrives on the scene; he recently inherited a cottage located close to the excavation site from an old friend.  It provides Nora a place to stay and give Cormac and Nora an opportunity to work on their relationship.  Nora’s sister was brutually murdered five years ago and the killer was never found; Nora still struggles with finding the clues that will put the killer behind bars.

Detective Liam Ward struggles with the case as it brings back memories of his own wife’s suicide.  Owen Cadogan, the site manager, is angry about Ursula’s rejection of him after a relationship the previous year.  Charlie Brazil, a local beekeeper, is haunted by his uncle’s disappearance and his father’s ailing health; he is also a local pariah because of his eccentric behavior.

With all the secrets and mysteries of the players, an aura of both violence and desire pervades the excavation site.  When new body is discovered, not in the bog but in a bathtub, accusations and tempers fly.  Cautiously Nora and Cormac must work to find the answers to all the deaths before the body count rises again.

Book Commentary:
This is the second Nora Gavin book I have read and I enjoyed it just was much as the first one.  The author does a fabulous job at blending ancient deaths and modern deaths.  She shows how the motivations for murder really haven’t changed over the course of centuries.  I love the psychological analysis and the varying characters’ viewpoints as she plots through the story.  So often secondary characters are there just to support the main characters.  Hart develops her secondary characters in such a way that the reader feels that they could have a story of their own.

Underlying the entire story is the relationship between Nora and Cormac.  I really found that I enjoyed these two characters even more with the second book and I am really rooting for their success.  As an outside observer, the reader can see the fragile balance of each of their own demons and their shaky, but meaningful, relationship.  I really, really hope they make it!

Once again, the second book in the series plays on the idea of a modern day gothic mystery.  The blend of contemporary science and pathology with the atmospheric Irish countryside and customs of the ancient inhabitants of the land creates a mood of suspense and intrigue.  Although the series is classified as contemporary, it really has a timeless feel.

Who might like this book:
If you liked Erin Hart’s first book Haunted Ground, you are sure to like this one.  The characters are developing in both their personal and professional experiences while being involved in a completely new story.  I recommend reading the first book before this one if you haven’t already.

The Crossing Places

The Crossing Places

Title:  The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway Book 1)
Author:  Elly Griffiths
Publisher:  Mariner
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  978-0-547-38606-5

Book Summary:
Ruth Galloway is content with life; she lives alone with her two cats in the desolate and bare area near Norfolk called the Saltmarsh.  As a forensic archaeologist, she is fascinated by the land and marshes around her home that were sacred to the Iron Age inhabitants.  Ruth spends her time on digs and teaching at the university, but her peaceful and serene world is shattered with DCI Harry Nelson asks Ruth for help.  The bones of a child have been found a beach and Nelson thinks that they belong to Lucy Downey, a little girl who disappeared ten years ago.  Ruth quickly determines that the bones are too old to be Lucy’s . . . about 2000 years too old.

Nelson has been haunted by Lucy’s disappearance and has been tormented by strange letters that include references to the Bible, Shakespeare, and ancient rituals.  As the letters are addressed directly to him, he is haunted by their accusations.  When another girl goes missing and the letters take on allusions to sacrifice and bones, Ruth is asked again to consult.  Are the two missing girls linked in any way?  What is the obsession to the Iron Age and ancient sites on the Saltmarsh?  Ruth is reluctant to help, claiming her detective skills are better suited to the ancient past, until an attack is made that threatens Ruth and makes her question what she really knows about the people she is close to.

Book Commentary:
I found this book when I was looking at Erin Hart’s Nora Gavin series about forensic pathology.  Incidentally, Erin Hart made an author commentary on the back cover of this book.  The two books are similar but it is fascinating how different pathology and archaeology can be.  Elly Griffiths relies a little less on the technical aspects of pathology and more on the psychological analysis of human nature.  I really enjoyed both book series.

Ruth is a very likeable and human character.  She is described as an “everywoman” who is intelligent and successful but also a bit naïve and self-conscious.  She lives in an encapsulated world where she is in control and understands the workings of her environment.  Her optimistic view of the world and its people is shattered by her involvement in the investigation, and the reader has to wonder how it will affect her future choices.

Who might like this book:
I think both Erin Hart and Kathy Reich fans will enjoy the forensic plot but readers will not be overwhelmed by the technical details.  I enjoyed how the past and present were woven together with both ancient and modern discoveries.  Ruth is a very likeable character, but I did not like some of the secondary characters; not for the way they were written but rather for who they were.  I am not sure how that will affect my view on future books in the series.  I plan to read the next book and see what happens from there.

If you enjoy The Crossing Places, this is great series to get hooked on as there are six more and the author is still writing.  Here are the next books in the series:

The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
The Dying Fall
The Outcast Dead
The Ghost Fields