The story starts with a quote from St Augustine “The dead may be invisible but they are not absent”, which sets the tone for this book where the detective work of Caroline Kelly and her collaborator on site, Rachel Lambert, untangle the missing links in Hare’s Landing, a hotel in County Cork. The two have managed to discover the newly renovated hotel online, at a moment of crisis in both their lives.
Rachel is fleeing events in London, where her partner’s accident and a burglary has left her afraid to be at home so she escapes with her dog Jasper hoping to uncover the history of Hare’s Landing, at a safe distance from London. Hare’s Landing has been mentioned to her partner just before his accident and the subsequent death of this person becomes a police enquiry as the plot unfolds. Caroline, who used to holiday in West Cork as a child, has absconded from New York in a hurry, where a lawsuit and unsupportive boss make a return home preferable. Both settle into this remote hotel, beside the sea expecting to find some calm in a storm.
The chilly, disdainful attitude of the hotel housekeeper reminds Caroline of the boss she has left behind, while Rachel is finding the lack of internet connection quite a problem, at a time when she is keen to keep contact with her partner online. Other friendly staff makes the two guests very welcome, also providing them with a wealth of local information, which is always useful if you have an eye for a mystery and like poking about in old dusty drawers. For Caroline, her gut instinct as a journalist enables her to follow various hunches and there is a suggestion that some of these may be connected supernatural or ghostly nocturnal disturbances. However she finds an ally in Rachel and her friendly dog whose need for walks and fresh air gives the women a chance to escape in the fresh air. The pace is quick and the plot works well so that we are confused whether the open door and strange noises are due to Caroline’s jetlag or an intruder or maybe even a ghostly presence, the latter the suggestion of both the local taxi driver and the hotel staff. It seems there are many tragedies lying in wait to be discovered, so Caroline’s investigative journalism skills are put to good use.
The atmosphere of small town Ireland is covered really well, with the friendly taxi driver collecting Caroline from the airport, and the nosey, local shopkeeper able not only to develop an old film but also to let the whole world know who has visited and what their business is. The visit to Ava the potter’s shop is another key to the mystery, written as a way to escape the hotel on the pretext of needing the internet also an opportunity to view the offers of the local town. Families and sibling relations are also a theme, and hints of past events both in the heroines’ lives as well as that of the previous owners of the hotel, keep a reader interested.
Although it is unlikely that a crime journalist from New York and a location scout for films from London should both converge on the same spot in January uncovering grim events and a mysterious historic crime, it is actually plausible due to the remote location, the lack of hotel accommodation in winter in rural idylls and also the fact that they are both Irish. I could imagine this as a film, the way the architecture of the Boathouse is described overlooking the beautiful coastline, the description of furniture inlays and hotel settings not to mind the final dramatic ending where the mystery is solved, the crimes of previous visitors to the house are uncovered and the danger to the two women involved is pacey yet satisfying, when they survive unscathed.
I enjoyed the interlinking of the two women’s stories and the ambiguity of whether the house is haunted. It is all left to the reader to decide. The sound of violins, the scent of a lingering perfume, the hares who give their name to the place may not be explained fully but there are no loose ends when you put this book down. Unusually in this genre is that fact that there are two female heroines, so this complex plot with female detectives and a mad dog in an idyllic setting comes highly recommended.
(c) Tina Lawlor Mottram
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