A skeleton is found in a shallow grave near an old ruined church. Forensic tests show that it’s a female, had given birth, was likely in her early 20s, and had been buried there some 20 to 30 years. Chief Inspector Jim Sheehan of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and his team investigate but leads are few, and Sheehan’s eyes glaze over when the two coroners explain the science.
One of the coroners is Andrew Jones. He stops for a bite to eat at a Belfast café. It’s crowded but he secures a table. A young woman arrives, also looking for a table, and Andrew offers her a chair at his. They get along, they talk, it gets late, and eventually he offers to drive her to her parents’ home. What they find upon arrival is an open door and the bodies of her parents, killed in what looks like some kind of ritual.
It gets worse. As the police detectives investigate, they find that the leads and suspects begin to die in the same way. These are all well-known, powerful., wealthy, influential people. They don’t know why their phone numbers show up in each other’s phones and directories. But nothing in this case is what appears to be. And then a link is discovered between the skeleton in the grave and the current murders, and the link is the young woman whose parents were murdered, the same young woman Andrew Jones is falling in love with.
The Coven Murders by Brian O’Hare is the third Jim Sheehan police procedural mystery. The novel moves in somewhat a different direction than the previous books in the series. Sheehan and his detectives run up against a force they’ve never previously encountered – Satan worshippers, with overlords and demons wreaking havoc. What’s also clear is that someone is systematically killing the members of the coven.
This is not your traditional police procedural.
O’Hare is a retired assistant director of a large regional college in Northern Ireland. He’s written two previous Jim Sheehan mysteries, The Doom Murders and The 11:05 Murders; three Inspector Sheehan short stories, “Murder at Loftus House,” “Murder at the Roadside Café,” and “Murder at the Care Home;” a work of general fiction entitled Fallen Men; a memoir, A Spiritual Odyssey: A Diary of an Ordinary Catholic; and a non-fiction work, The Miracle Ship: Conversations with John Gillespie.
The Coven Murders is fast-paced, full of surprises, well plotted, and well researched. It’s also advisable not to read it at night.
Top photograph by Jonathan Bowers via Unsplash. Used with permission.