Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mermaid Fiction

I was thinking of re-posting old reviews again today and thought it would be neat to see what I was reading a year ago. As it happens, I was reading The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman for the library book group discussion. I reviewed it in a very snarky, sarcastic review which I kind of regret posting. What is odd is that I just finished False Mermaid by Erin Hart which, like Goodman's book, features the Celtic legend of the Selkie wife. You may remember the folktale goes something like this: a poor, but honest, farmer spots a beautiful woman basking on a rock but she is really a seal who has shed her skin for the day. The farmer can control this creature as long as he can hide her seal skin from her. OK, maybe he's not so nice. Anyway, this legend has proved fertile ground for novelists and storytellers over the years.And it has also proved to be a veritable petri dish of overblown metaphors and feminist themes. For some reason when I picked up False Mermaid and realized I was back in the dread Celtic selkie territory, I shuddered but persevered because I really wanted to know "who done it." The book has a very complicated plot and is very suspenseful, so even if you have the same selkie aversion that I have (is that very likely?) you might still enjoy this murder mystery for its complexity, and for the Irish and Minnesota settings. The blurb from our catalog follows:
"After her Irish sojourn in Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows, Nora Gavin returns home to Minnesota, ready to pin the murder of sister Triona on Triona's husband and to protect their child, Elizabeth. Then Cormac, Nora's archaeologist buddy back in Ireland, digs up a story about a woman missing for a century-a story only Elizabeth understands is connected to her mother."
So possibly fate demands that I revisit the world of the selkie every June.If that's the case, the BHPL catalog lists 5 titles when searched for 'Selkies-Fiction' and a whopping 39 when searched for 'Mermaids - Fiction'.
If you would like to read more mysteries about forensic archaeologists, try Elly Griffiths' The Crossing Places, a Ruth Galloway mystery which is also full of Celtic lore. And if you like bodies preserved in peat bogs, both False Mermaid, the Ruth Galloway mysteries and Raven Black, #1 in the Shetland mysteries by Ann Cleeves use the fact that the tannin in peat bogs perfectly preserves bodies. File these mysteries under the mystery sub-genre: Forensic archaeologists, Celtic legends, bog people.

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