Something dark and twisted in the Irish village of Lisfenora brings American Merrit Chase together again with DS Danny Ahern (Whispers in the Mist, 2016, etc.).
After Elder Joe, a regular at the local pub, is brutally stabbed in his home, Merrit is the unfortunate who finds his body. Joe had been exploiting Cecil Wallace, his elderly lodger, but Cecil doesn’t seem to have anyone who would avenge him. Ahern’s on the case even though his thoughts are with his wife, who lies comatose in a hospital bed. Merrit is also inclined to meddle, but she’s distracted by her ailing father and his wish that she take on his role as village matchmaker. Meanwhile, potter Nathan Tate is profoundly traumatized, and his beautiful, charming, and unsettlingly attentive daughter, Zoe, somehow only seems to make him worse despite her falsely modest claims to be a miraculous healer. What helps Nathan more is his burgeoning romance with Annie Belden, but she must cope with her own haunting past and present threats. An urgent text message sends Nathan and Merrit rushing to Annie’s home, where they find her corpse along with an ominous bouquet of dead flowers. Danny interviews Annie’s therapist and finds yet another severely mentally ill person in her past. Is Nathan terrified of ordinary human evil, or is Zoe truly supernatural?
The story moves slowly, and its telling includes excessively didactic explanations of Irish vernacular. The results are atmospheric but unsatisfying.