When two pregnant redheads drown an ocean and 30 years apart, it’s up to FBI Special Agent Poppy Rice (She’s Not There, 2002, etc.) to establish the connection.
Maeve Doyle fetched up in Galway Bay. Her demise, ignored for years by the Gardia, has finally drawn the attention of the Old Country’s Nuala O’Neill, who begs her son Danny, a Boston fire marshal, to solve the 30-year-old death. Meanwhile, when Kathleen Sullivan has bobbed to the surface at the edge of Boston Harbor, Indian-born, Irish-married Rocky Patel, of the BPD, is assigned her case. Both men turn to Poppy for help. The trio painstakingly elicit the girls’ relationship to Monsignor Tom Connealy, a former Irish seminarian now resettled in Boston. Poppy also pinpoints the childhood abuse of both Kathleen and her sister by their uncle, Circuit Court Judge Sean Scanlon, and has the FBI establish through DNA typing that the priest fathered both Maeve’s and Kathleen’s unborn children. The men both take off, and Poppy has to locate them before more pedophilic hormones and sins against the church run amok.
Despite her cutesy name, Poppy has become one of the stronger, more believably cynical heroines in detective fiction. There’s much to admire here, from the handling of Patel’s blend of subcontinental mysticism with Catholic dogma to the transgenerational festering of the Irish Troubles to the greedy amorality of the sex traders who exploit minors.