Sarah Stewart Taylor amassed quite a following for her debut series featuring university professor Sweeney St. George who specialized in art history related to funerals and gravestones. After the last of that four-book series was released, Taylor took an extended hiatus from crime fiction to raise her family. Thankfully for her fans, she is ready to return to the fold with a new novel. The Mountains Wild will be released next week and while it is very different from the Sweeney St. George series, it still features Sarah Stewart Taylor’s ability to craft relatable characters and build a strong sense of place. Even the funerary art history element makes a small, but significant, appearance.
The heroine of The Mountains Wild is Maggie D’arcy, and readers are sure to fall in love with this character. Maggie is feisty and unpredictable, but she is also loyal and caring. The novel takes place in two time-periods – 2016 and 1993. The two timelines weave in and out of each other in unique ways allowing Taylor to unspool her story with masterful technique.
In 1993, Maggie’s family was notified that her beloved cousin Erin had gone missing while on a vacation in Dublin, Ireland. Because she and Erin were very close in age and grew up as best friends, Maggie volunteers to travel overseas to see if she can locate her cousin. Despite working closely with the Irish Garda for weeks, any trace evidence discovered fails to lead to any significant sign of Erin herself and eventually Maggie returns home to share the tragic news with her family.
However, the Garda reach out again in 2016, after Erin’s very distinctive scarf is discovered near the location where another young woman has gone missing. With her Uncle now older and not in the best of health, it falls on Maggie to return to the Emerald Isle once again in the hopes of finding Erin – or at least finding out what happened to her. Maybe this time her involvement will help authorities find Niamh Horrigan as well. It’s no surprise to Maggie when suspects in Erin’s disappearance seem to be linked to this new case as well and she is determined to get some answers.
Sarah Stewart Taylor clearly loves Ireland. The location is brought vividly to life – in both time periods – to such an extent that it virtually becomes another character on the page. The plot requires Maggie to explore both the residential areas and the vast, uncharted natural landscapes of this beautiful country. Readers who have recently read Dervla McTiernan may notice a similar method of incorporating Ireland’s troubled history in the mystery plot without allowing it to overwhelm or become pedantic.
Readers receive a very satisfying and unexpected conclusion to the core case in The Mountains Wild, but this will not be the last they see of Maggie D’arcy. This is the launch of a new series and there are many avenues yet to be explored for this character – both on domestic shores and across the pond in Ireland. Fans of Sarah Stewart Taylor can rejoice at her return to our favorite genre and those who have not yet read this talented author can now join the fandom.
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.