The Celtic Riddle--Lyn Hamilton


Lyn Hamilton has produced a series of mysteries that have the subtitle "An Archaeological Mystery." While this might not be technically correct for the present book (it is more like an Ethnographical mystery or a Cultural Anthropological Mystery), I am certain that the subtitle attracts more than its share of people interested in the subject.

In the present case, Our Heroine, Lara McClintoch journeys to Ireland with her friend and employee Alex to hear the reading of a will in which Alex is left a small cottage on the Irish coast by someone he met once, a long time ago. As part of the will, the Decedent set up a treasure hunt for an enormously valuable relic. The purpose of the hunt was to get his dysfunctional family to work together. The result is a triple murder.

Now, an inveterate reader of mysteries will know "whodunit" before the heroine. I know I did. There's just something a little coy in the writing that, if you have learned to pick up on it, triggers a kind of intuition. That is certainly true here. The mystery is not tightly constructed (oh, how I miss the golden age)--largely because much too much attention is lavished on the truly interesting treasure hunt.

I'm a sucker for treasure hunt books. It's why, much to everyone's chagrin, I liked both Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code and it explains a certain amount of my myopia concerning them. I could care less about the trappings, its the fun of moving from one clue to the next (regardless of how hare-brained they might be.) In this case you haven't much opportunity to move from one to the next unless you are intimately familiar with Ireland, here legends, and her history. Nevertheless, the author deftly guides you past the clue and even at one point gives you a map to help you to try to decipher the location of the treasure. In the course of all this, she makes one enormous gaffe (having the sun rise in Ireland in the northeast) and may make others.

But somehow, all of that does not matter. The heroine is fun, interesting, and not a know-it-all. The novel is interspersed with tales from The Book of Invasions told, more or less accurately (from my recollection--it's been a while). We encounter all the major figures of Irish Mythology--Nuada, Lugh, Fionn. Cuchulain, Maeve, Almu, the Morrigan, etc. All of this with official eccentric Irish Orthography.

The book is fun, light, entertaining, and informative. There are some serious faults, but not something that most people will mind (I'm a stickler for "fairness" and for Golden Age plotting a clue-laying). And for the price of admission you get a fairly good story and a nice does of Irish Mythology.


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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 1, 2004 7:42 AM.

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