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False Mermaid

The chilling, much-anticipated third novel in a series that brilliantly combines forensics, archaeology, and history with Irish myth and mystery.

Erin Hart's HAUNTED GROUND was one of the most praised mystery debuts in recent years, and its follow-up, LAKE OF SORROWS, also received outstanding acclaim. Now Hart combines her page-turning storytelling skills and deep knowledge of Ireland and Irish myth with a Minnesota setting close to her heart.

Nora Gavin remains haunted by a cold case that nearly cost her sanity five years ago: her sister Tríona's brutal murder. After failing to bring the killer to justice, Nora fled to Ireland, throwing herself into her work and taking the first tentative steps in a new relationship with Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire. She's driven home by unwelcome news: Tríona's husband—and the prime suspect in her murder—is about to remarry. Nora is determined to succeed this time, even if it means confronting unsettling secrets. As she digs ever closer to the truth, the killer zeroes in on Tríona's young daughter, Elizabeth.

Back in Ireland, Cormac Maguire heads north to visit his ailing father, and hears the tale of a local woman who vanished a hundred years ago. Was she a seal-maiden who returned to the sea, or was some more sinister force at work in her disappearance?

Caught up in parallel mysteries, Cormac and Nora wrestle with identity, suspicion, truth and falsehood, and of course the biggest riddle of all—will they have a chance at a life together, or will tragedies of the past continue to keep them apart?

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Readers Guide


Once Upon A Crime
Independent Mystery Booksellers
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Scribner, Hardcover (March 2010), ISBN-13: 9781416563761
Scribner, Paperback (March 2011), ISBN-13: 9781416563778


  • Booklist's 101 Best Crime Novels of The Past Decade
  • Top Ten Crime Novels of 2010, ALA Booklist
  • Indie Next Notable, March 2010 (hardcover) and March 2011 (paperback)
  • Best Mysteries of 2010, Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

"Many readers will find this passionate, complex novel almost impossible to put down."
   —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Rich in human drama, complex relationships, and vivid local color. Few writers combine as seamlessly as Hart does the subtlety, lyrical language, and melancholy of literary fiction with the pulse-pounding suspense of the best thrillers."
   —Booklist (starred review)

"Pinpoint plotting and sure sense of place make this tale a winner."
   —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Rich with atmosphere and Irish legend, this exceptionally crafted story of murder, family secrets, and redemption is a welcome addition to Hart's suspenseful series. Nora Gavin is an intelligent and engaging protagonist who leaves the reader anxious for her next adventure."
   —Library Journal

"A haunting, eerie page-turner..."
   —Irish America Magazine

"Wherever she goes, Nora Gavin is haunted by the unsolved murder of her sister. Now she is ready to make a final assault on the man she believes to be guilty. Her efforts will unearth dark secrets, and bring closure to old wounds. There is a subtle, lyrical quality to Hart's writing, coupled with an emotional insight into even the most peripheral characters. Immensely enjoyable, especially for fans of her earlier work."
   —Jennie Turner-Collins, Joseph Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati

"Archaeology is an apt metaphor for how Erin Hart unearths her novels—working down through many layers, finding connections, bringing priceless artifacts and terrible secrets of the past to light. Subtly, lyrically, she uncovers the many hidden layers of this all too human drama."
   —Open Letters Monthly, An Arts and Literature Review

"Beautifully written and atmospheric, as well as truly suspenseful."
   —Denver Post

"The selkie myth serves not only as an elegant plot device, weaving the 19th-century story of the disappearance of a fisherman's wife in County Donegal with the 20th-century murder of Nora's sister, Tríona, in St. Paul, but the myth also becomes a symbol for the besieged selves and complex identities that lie beneath Hart's characters' skins."
   —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The best books are read with a lump in your throat, thanks to a combination of emotion, narrative and character. The third in Hart's fine Nora Gavin series, this is just such a book... Hart is a writer who has many similarities to Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Louise Penny and Deborah Crombie, with a similar skill set of complex character development and a story that accumulates more depth as the book progresses. She also shares some of Penny's poetry. This is a compelling and well crafted story of grief and attachment, highlighted by lovely writing. Welcome back to a major talent."
   —Robin Agnew, Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

"Hart again imbues what might have been a straightforward mystery with an overlay of myth. The feminist view of the selkie's plight—a woman torn between the loyalty to her human family and the lingering need for a return to the independence of the sea—ultimately informs both stories, each drawing meaning and metaphor from the other."
   —Bill Ott, "Discoveries," American Libraries magazine