Review: ‘A Distant Grave’ is a complex and lyrical thriller

“A Distant Grave,” by Sarah Stewart Taylor (Minotaur)

Homicide detective Maggie D’arcy has been hoping to heat up a cross-Atlantic romance with her sweetheart, Conor Kearney, but after a body turns up on Long Island beach, her trip to Ireland appears to be off.

When the murder victim turns out to be Gabriel Treacy, a Dublin resident who had just arrived in America, however, she flies to the Emerald Isle to combine business with pleasure. As the investigation heats up, she finds scant time for the latter.

The indomitable D’arcy, introduced by author Sarah Stewart Taylor last year in the critically acclaimed “Mountains Wild,” soon finds herself entangled in a case with threads that stretch from Long Island and Ireland to Italy and war-torn Afghanistan.

Treacy, it turns out, was an aid worker who once had been kidnapped, and subsequently rescued, in Afghanistan. And recently, he had been looking for a long-lost brother who had been torn from his family during Ireland’s stolen babies scandal. Could either, or perhaps both, explain why he had come to America? Could either involve motives for his murder?

Meanwhile, powerful Suffolk County DA John J. Cooney, insistent that the murder was just a gang-related robbery gone bad, pressures D’arcy to return to Long Island.

As she persists in following her lines of investigation, however, several others involved in either the stolen babies scandal or the kidnapping die from a mysterious killer’s bullets. Eventually, she realizes her own life is in danger.

The result is a fast-paced, tension-filled yarn filled with twists the reader is unlikely to see coming. Taylor tells the story in a lyrical prose style that is a joy to read. She excels in vividly portraying both the rural Ireland and Long Island settings and in developing memorable characters including D’arcy’s partner, Dave Milich, and her troubled daughter, Lilly.

The only off note is occasional references to events in “The Mountain Wild” that are difficult for readers to fathom unless they have read the first book in the series.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”

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