There are certain books in which setting and character share equal billing in terms of importance.  Lisa Alber’s debut novel, Kilmoon, is just such a novel.

The reader is clued into this right from the book jacket.  Kilmoon is given the subtitle of A County Clare Mystery.  Whereas most crime novelist’s name their series after the main character, Alber has chosen to bestow upon her series a name relating to the major setting of the book.

Make no mistake about it, however, Lisa Alber’s characters are equally important to the success of this debut novel.  Kilmoon is the story of Merrit Chase, a California woman who has recently found out that her biological father is not the man she grew up calling Father.  To add more intrigue to this scandalous secret, she also discovers that her biological dad, Liam Donellan, is a matchmaker living in Ireland.  And not just any matchmaker – Liam is the central figure in a village-wide matchmaking festival.

Merrit decides that if she has any hope of finding out how her mother and Liam met, she is going to need to travel over to County Clare, Ireland during the time of this annual matchmaking festival – a tourist mecca which will help her to remain anonymous.  Things hardly go as planned from the moment Merrit sets foot on Irish soil.

When Lonnie O’Brien, a less than celebrated member of the County Clare community, is murdered during Merrit’s residency in Ireland, she is going to need to tap into her familial intuition in order to ferret out the perpetrator.  In the style of traditional mysteries of old, Lisa Alber has placed the crime within a small community, thereby creating a closed-circle of suspects.  Merrit Chase’s and Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern’s interactions and investigations form a backbone of sorts for the action which follows and readers are going to become invested in both of these characters.

Interwoven throughout the modern-day story are excerpts from both Liam’s journal and Merrit’s mother, Julia’s notebook.  These excerpts gradually provide a glimpse into the past and help both the reader and Merrit to understand what happened all those years ago.

The atmosphere of Ireland, and County Clare in particular, proves a perfect backdrop for this story of love and betrayal.  By the time they finish, readers are likely to be ready to book their next vacation as a trip around the wonderful greens of the Irish landscape.  And who can resist the idea of a matchmaking festival?

While Kilmoon is indeed a traditional mystery, I would like to caution readers that this does not mean it is a cozy mystery.  Alber peppers her dialogue with what many might consider to be excessive curse words, but which rang true to the characters for this reader.

All in all, Kilmoon represents the successful debut of a new mystery series.  Lisa Alber has set into motion a unique cast of characters and readers are certainly going to want to know what else she has in store for them.

_____________________________________________________________________ Disclaimer:  A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author.  No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.