“Path into Darkness” by Lisa Alber – Book Review

“A haunting tale of family secrets, madness, and healing”.

Lisfenora, Ireland.  Renown for its annual matchmaking festival. The ‘matchmaker’ in this case is the terminally ill Liam. Knowing that his end is near, he appoints his daughter, Merritt Chase, to take over the esteemed role of ‘matchmaker’. Merritt, feeling she has no aptitude for this position is reluctant. She has moved to Ireland from California.

In the small village there is another father/daughter duo. Nathan Tate, a potter with PTSD has recently found himself living with his vivacious and beautiful daughter, Zoe. The reader is made aware that he is uncomfortable having Zoe in his house, and in his life. We wonder why…  Nathan has spent time in a psychiatric hospital. When his wife passed away, he abandoned Zoe to her grandparents.  Nathan is now suffering. He rarely sleeps and has nightmares when he does. He often seems in a fugue state, with little to no memory of what has transpired during them. His mental state is fragile and he has a large scar – we wonder how he got it. He becomes involved with Annie, a woman who has recently moved to the village who used to work as a psychiatric nurse. Both with troubles of their own, together the world seems safer.

“Belief becomes its own truth”

Zoe herself, young, beautiful and vibrant, fancies herself a ‘healer’.  Some folk take her at face value, some view her absurd claim with amusement. At least one person in the village thinks that there is ‘something off’ about her…

Elder Joe is a local man who lives near a gravel quarry. A local regular at the village pub, he lives in a house much to large for him. He takes in ‘lodgers’. These lodgers are not of the usual variety though, he takes in the elderly and infirm who cannot afford to stay in a care home. And let’s just say that caring is not Elder Joe’s strong suit.

The novel begins with the body of Elder Joe being found. Tasked with finding out who murdered him is Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern.  Danny, also a pub regular, has a dismal home situation. He has two young children who are cared for by his father-in-law while he is at work. His wife is in a coma and has been for six months now.  He takes his children to visit her every Saturday…

Then, there is a second murder in the small village. Common sense would dictate that they are connected, but are they?

The three titles in the County Clare mystery series by Lisa Alber

I requested this title from NetGalley back when I thought NetGalley was a sweet shop and I was three years old. No seriously, I went through a spell when I was grabbing everything that took my eye – now of course experience has told me to be more selective.  Don’t get me wrong, this was a great novel, but it is 3rd in a series.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate to start a series mid-stream.  I really, really wish I had read the previous two novels before starting this one to get more of the background on the characters. Most of the relationships had underlying complexity that might have been made clearer by starting with the first book, “Kilmoon” in which Merrit and her father Liam were first introduced.

The setting was enchanting. A small Irish village in County Clare. Well described I could just about feel the rain and see the vivid greens when the sun shone.

The characters were interesting and I wanted to know more about them. Why did Nathan suffer so? What secrets was he harboring? Why was Zoe so ‘chirpy’? Why did she want to live in a small Irish village with her father? Even though she seems to dote on her father, she seems somehow out of place – like a peacock among pigeons.

Would Garda Danny ever find happiness? Would he discover the murderer?

The mystery plot in this novel was well developed and satisfying to me. I didn’t mind the slower pace as the characters were so beguiling.  I do think my enjoyment of this title would have been much greater if I had read the previous novels in the series. In fact, I would go so far as to say it might have been a 5-star read for me if I had read the previous two books. For that, I only have myself to blame.

A novel that explores the themes of familial love, guilt, shame, and responsibility.

Recommended to those crime/mystery lovers who like atmospheric settings and complex characters.  In summation, I enjoyed my most recent ‘visit’ to Ireland. Based on my overall enjoyment of the book, I am rating it at 4 stars.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Midnight Ink via NetGalley for purposes of this review.

Lisa Alber graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in economics (of all things) and a minor in Spanish literature (to keep her sanity). In various incarnations, she has worked as a librarian’s assistant, financial analyst in Ecuador and Brazil, cocktail waitress, journalist, and, most recently, technical writer. By far, her favorite short-lived career choice was book publishing, where she worked in the editorial departments at Warner Books and Doubleday.

Lisa lives in Oregon with a spunky Chihuahua mix, an accident-prone cat, and her trusty laptop. She likes photography, gardening, red wine, and scary movies. She’s an active member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Follow Lisa Alber on Twitter.


About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley, Reading Ireland and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to “Path into Darkness” by Lisa Alber – Book Review

  1. carhicks says:

    When my daughter and I were in Ireland, we stumbled upon a Matchmakers Festival in Lisdoonvarna, in County Clare. We only drove through because there were so many people there, we couldn’t find a place to park. This book sounds pretty interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Four stars for a book started mid-series AND it has a wonderful cover? Sign me up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Reading Ireland Month Week Two round-up!

  4. Michael says:

    Great review. I normally don’t read mystery, but this sounds promising and suspenseful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alexandra says:

    I don’t mind a slow pace if there’s lots of character building, and especially if the mystery/murder doesn’t include a ton of graphic violence (which I hate). I might try and find book one first though.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. skyecaitlin says:

    Sounds interesting, and thanks so much for the advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rosie Amber says:

    Lots to interest me in this book, but like you, I need to start with book one of any series to get the most from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. macalder02 says:

    With your review, the interest in reading the book is awakened.

    Liked by 1 person

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