Sarah Stewart Taylor
reviewed by Gail Byrd
Full of atmosphere, tension, and hints that things are going to get even more intense, Sarah Stewart Taylor’s A Distant Grave starts like a thunderstorm and ends like a hurricane, building throughout the book.
It is easy to get caught up in this tense atmosphere which opens with a few pages from Gabriel Traecy’s point of view as he explores the rocky beach of Bay Shore, Long Island. He realizes he is being observed by someone who wants to kill him; but the identity of the individual is not revealed in his thoughts. As he anticipates, he is murdered by a single shot which begins Maggie’s involvement in the case. Although she is scheduled for a vacation trip to Ireland, she is called to the scene of the crime and can only hope the investigation can be wrapped up before she is due to leave.
Most of the book is told from Maggie’s point of view beginning with an investigation that starts in New York and continues in Ireland as she begins her vacation, then forces a return to New York. Since Gabriel Tracey is an Irish national, it is decided the investigation might be best served by Maggie conducting some interviews and exploration while on her vacation to Ireland. Although she gathers some information during her visit, the trip is cut short when the District Attorney, who despises Maggie, pushes Maggie’s boss to order her return.
Throughout the book there are brief passages told from Gabriel’s point of view. These passages combine to tell of the events that took place during a time he was held hostage in Afghanistan. Gabriel’s story is interleaved with the chapters told by Maggie as she tries to salvage her vacation in Ireland, nourish her relationship with her Irish boyfriend Conor, and help her daughter Lilly overcome the trauma she experienced with her father’s death. An added bonus is the hope that with Maggie out of the DA’s sites he will be less intent on finding a reason to fire her.
The plot is intricate and well designed. Gabriel has spent his life working with non-government aid organizations in a lifetime of service to others. What connects him with the DA on Long Island and why would a murderer lurk in the shadows intent on killing him? As Maggie tries to unravel the threads of Gabriel’s life, it becomes apparent that someone is always one step ahead of her, thwarting her efforts to learn more about Gabriel’s past. In addition to the frustration this causes Maggie and her team, there is the nerve-wracking feeling that someone is watching every move Maggie and her team are making. Maggie feels as if she and Lilly, are both being watched. Is Lilly in danger? Maggie is constantly torn between trying to do her job and trying to insure the safety of her daughter.
The pace of A Distant Grave is superb, building slowly to a crescendo that has the reader fully engaged from start to finish. While the pace is maintained, the tension builds throughout and in the final few chapters, the book becomes so compelling many readers will likely push to finish it, even if it means staying up well into the night.
While the end is a satisfactory conclusion to the murder, it does not come without some loss to Maggie. The reader is left with thoughts about what is next for Maggie, for the department, and for secondary characters such as Maggie’s grandfather, her partner Dave, Conor, and her daughter Lilly. Many readers will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series to learn where everyone goes from here. It is a credit to Taylor that she has created such well-rounded, engaging characters they hold the reader’s interest beyond the current murder. Count me as one of the readers who will be watching for the next book in the series, oping my view into the future via my imagination’s crystal ball is accurate in predicting what comes next.
My thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advanced digital copy for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.