A quiet Irish town is rocked by the discovery of a body.
Human remains are found buried at a construction site in Duneen, Ireland, propelling the bored Sgt. PJ Collins into bumbling, earnest action. Questions immediately arise as to whether the body might belong to Tommy Burke, who was thought to have run off to England two decades ago. PJ doesn't have much experience with women—"he had managed to get through decades of adulthood without emotional attachment"—and somehow his work on the case leads him to quickly develop inappropriate relationships with Evelyn Ross and Brid Riordan, two women who had once fought over Tommy. As the investigation continues, these women and their families are forced to confront long-buried secrets and betrayals. Evelyn realizes her life has slipped away, as she has lived with her two sisters for the past 20 years waiting for Tommy to return, whereas Brid begins to reconsider her loveless marriage after recalling her less-than-thrilling engagement to Tommy. PJ is infused with a new sense of professional energy by the case, but he's wary of becoming romantically involved with either of his suspects even as he's drawn further into a potential love triangle. U.K. talk show host Norton’s debut novel is a mystery laced with a sense of humor, from the pointed observations Duneen’s residents make about each other to PJ’s relationship with his housekeeper, Mrs Meany, who keeps him amply supplied with food. The novel opens with a funny riff on Jane Austen: “It was widely accepted by the residents of Duneen that, should a crime be committed and Sergeant Collins managed to apprehend the culprit, it would be very unlikely that the arrest had involved a pursuit on foot.” Yet the narrative also deepens into moments of unexpected sadness and insight, as PJ begins to understand the losses women in the village have kept quiet about for years. Norton’s work is appealing precisely because the story has a layer of gravity, and it is ultimately an enjoyable character study rather than a murder mystery shrouded in darkness.
A bright, quick-paced novel, especially inviting because of its tongue-in-cheek wit.