Old Sins (A Maria Pell Mystery, #3) by Lynne Handy
A fantastic standalone sequel in the Maria Pell Mystery series!
After discovering her partner of 12 years in flagrante with one of his department colleagues, the heartbroken poet Maria Pell, takes a sabbatical from their university to go to Ireland to work on a new collection of poetry based on the island’s ancient civilizations. She ends up in Coomara, a village on the coast outside of Dublin, and only days into her stay, her cousin Elizabeth shows up unannounced on her cottage doorstep, suitcases in hand. As the two women fall into village life, Maria tries to write and visits nearby ruins, excavation sites, and beauty spots, seeking inspiration for her work. She supplements her sightseeing with research about the ancient peoples that scholars before her have produced and her own unique talent: seeing into the spirit world around her. Maria Pell is a ‘sensitive,’ gifted with second sight, and the old spirits of these ancient places communicate with her through visions. Still, inspiration is elusive, and her struggles take a back seat when a young girl from the village is murdered.
Bridget Vale had been a frequent visitor to Maria’s cottage; her mother was the cleaning woman, and she often accompanied her on her jobs. Maria had gotten close to the girl and wanted to help the grieving family find answers. Maria was no stranger to the death of a child. When she was ten years old, she’d found a dead baby in the creek that ran behind her home. Baby Doe had never been identified, and the horror of that discovery had haunted Maria her entire life.
With her special sight, Maria uncovers clues and information that Inspector Flint, the Garda detective assigned to Bridget’s case, needs to know to do a proper investigation. However, each break in the case proves to be a dead end. Everyone connected to the case seems to be withholding information, lying, or keeping secrets. Then another young girl from Coomara goes missing, and soon another disappears as well, snatched on her way to school. The village is in a panic, and Maria focuses all her attention on her inquiries. To make matters worse, Dr. Mathieu Broussard, her cheating ex, suddenly turns up in Coomara seeking her forgiveness and reconciliation.
Old Sins is the fantastic third book in author Lynne Handy’s Maria Pell Mystery series, but it is easily read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. Frankly, I’d forgotten it was part of a series until I reached the end of the book and discovered the titles of the previous books.
Maria is a strong and intelligent protagonist. She’s interesting, well-spoken, and clear-thinking as she investigates the terrifying happenings in Coomara. She also has the patience of a saint to deal with her cousin and former lover showing up uninvited. Elizabeth has enmeshed herself in the life of the local Catholic Church in the short time she’s been there. She seems to dither and waffle at first, but slowly these characteristics change to irritability and self-righteousness and a gradual descent into something much darker, which provides a significant plot twist in Maria Pell’s backstory. Inspector Flint is suitably stand-offish as the detective in charge of the cases and is appropriately reluctant to share information with Maria until he discovers she has the second sight. I loved his ready acceptance of this, as he’s got relatives with the same gift.
Bridget’s baffling murder and the girls going missing are frightening; their resolutions are difficult going for Flint and Maria. There are a lot of possible suspects, even when it looks like someone they know in the village is orchestrating the kidnappings. You could feel the rising panic and loss of control, that feeling of no safe space, escalating as each incident with a girl occurs, especially when there are botched attempts at snatching new victims. The author ups the atmospheric feeling of the whole with the constant fog and mist and the arrival of a torrential storm that hits in the middle of the terror. The unrelenting wind puts the characters and the reader on edge.
With its moody coastal setting, chilling weather, and baffling investigation, I recommend OLD SINS to mystery readers who enjoy strong female characters, exciting, fear-inducing plotlines, and an atmospheric Irish countryside.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.