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by Sheila Connolly
Crooked Lane Books, January 2018
330 pages
ISBN: 1683314530

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Maura Donovan is in Ireland, still learning the pub business she inherited a year ago. Her staff is the same, which is (mostly) a good thing. She's brought back the weekend music sessions, and the clientele seems to like that. It's a pretty stable bunch, now that everyone in town has satisfied their curiosity about the woman from Boston who came in out of nowhere to take over Sullivan's. Maura is, therefore, a bit surprised when a high-end hotel in the next town over sends in a contingent to give Sullivan's the once-over. She's not sure why they are interested in Sullivan's and is pretty sure she doesn't like the attitude of John Byrne, one of Crann Mor's new owners. Still, she's willing to listen to what they have to say.

Life gets more complicated when John Byrne is found dead at the bottom of a steep incline on the hotel's property. It would have no impact on Maura's life except for one minor detail. John's assistant is a woman named Helen Jenkins. Turns out Helen is Maura's mother, the woman who walked away from Maura twenty-some years ago. Throw into the mix Gillian and Harry, Maura's friends, who are having a baby almost any day now, and need a place to live. There are two men in Maura's life: Sean Murphy, who works for the Garda, and "Young" Mick O'Sullivan, who tends bar for Maura. It all gets very complicated; Leap is a small town where everyone knows everyone and memories are very long. Maura finds this useful as she helps Sean (off the record) investigate whether or not John Byrne was murdered at all. There is a new Garda in town from Liverpool who is not used to small town life, and sets everyone's teeth on edge with his attitude.

Sheila Connolly paints what seems to be an accurate portrait of life in contemporary small-town Ireland. Her depictions of the clients and the interaction at Sullivan's rings true as well (I've worked in bars and restaurants in small towns - the chatter and the worries both are spot on). Maura spends a lot of time fretting about her mother, and the feelings that descend upon her with Helen's sudden reappearance in her life. Again (having a little life experience to bring to bear) the anger, the confusion, the resentment . . . All seem appropriate and normal. Lucky for Maura, she has friends who can help her work through all of this.

Connolly writes five separate series. This is the first of any of her work that I've read. I promptly ordered BURIED IN A BOG, the first in this series, as I want to know more about Maura and her friends. If it is as good as MANY A TWIST, I may have to read some of her other series.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, February 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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