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Lynne Handy
Old Sins
Lynne Handy, author
Battered by her archeologist lover’s betrayal, poet Maria Pell flees to an Irish village to study prehistoric people and write her next volume of poetry, but her sanctuary is invaded first by her moody cousin and then by her Togolese lover who unexpectedly show up on her doorstep. When the discovery of a girl’s body on a rocky shore reawakens Maria’s devastating childhood memory of finding a dead baby floating in a stream, her days become haunted by this child’s death. As teenage girls disappear, villagers are terrified that sex-traffickers are targeting their community. With crimes to be solved, both past and present, Maria risks her life to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In the polished third of her Maria Pell mystery series (after Where the River Runs Deep), former librarian Handy spins a tale that could be ripped from today’s headlines: sex trafficking of young women. After her archaeologist boyfriend Mathieu cheats on her, psychic poet Maria Pell travels from Indiana to Coomara, Ireland, to write her next book—and finds herself thrust headlong into the case of the murder of local teenager Bridget Vale. It’s not the first time Maria has been involved with a murder: as a ten-year-old, she found a dead baby girl in a local stream, and it’s haunted her ever since.

Handy’s engaging mystery will enchant established genre fans and entice new followers into Maria’s world and to Ireland itself, which comes to convincing life. As Maria and local law enforcement search for clues, the town faces a rash of kidnappings, all young girls intended to be trafficked—and when someone starts shooting at Maria, she realizes that the culprit isn’t afraid to kill to keep secrets. Handy’s training as a librarian is evident in her detailed research not only about Ireland and human trafficking, but also archaeology, botany, and druid history, adding layers of interest and authenticity. Colorful supporting characters, such as purported witch Deirdre O’Malley, town gossip Judy Moriarity, and Maria’s inscrutable cousin Elizabeth ably underpin the narrative.

Handy’s classic Christie-style heroine is plucky and determined, and the plotting is taut, suspenseful, and always surprising even as it hits its genre marks. The various storylines are tied up in a shocking finale that outs the mastermind behind the abductions, in the process shedding new light on the dead baby Maria found years earlier. The novel’s title is a sly reference to the concept of sins of the father and captures the emotions behind long-held grudges, leaving readers to wonder what Maria Pell will be up to in the future.

Takeaway: This snappy mystery will captivate cozy mystery fans and entice new readers to explore the genre.

Great for fans of: Mary Higgins Clark, Kate White.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B+