FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
It is a bone chilling, eye widening, and just flat out eerie scene that Brian O’Hare starts readers off with in the third book of his The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series. Whatever I expected to find when I finally sat down to open The Coven Murders, I’m sure it wasn’t the ultimate smack in the face I got thanks to a shadowy hand coming straight out of scenes that I remember coming out of frightening movies dealing with the occult and devil worshipers.
A young woman’s life comes to an end by a blade in an abandoned church in Northern Ireland on the last day of July of 1995. This woman has been offered as a sacrifice to Satan. At the beginning of July of 2016, a couple of hikers report finding skeletal remains. Stationed at the Strandtown Police Station, Chief Detective Inspector Jim Sheehan and Sergeant Denise Stewart, his sergeant, make their way to the scene. The discovery of this difficult-to-identify female skeleton precedes a total of six brand new bodies of prominent people killed in similar fashion as the person whose skeleton was found. As the thirty first of July approaches this year, so does a potential new human sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. Can Sheehan and his investigative team find the killer in time?
James Sheehan, or Jim as he is mostly called, was a bit difficult for me to draw a mental image of at first. The author’s portrayal of him is done in a slow and steady manner, but eventually the reader gets to figure his persona out. He has a mind that latches on to little details. Able to get answers from the subconscious part of his mind as well as his ability to store away all those little things he catches with his eyes, one eventually gets to understand why he is chief in the Serious Crimes Room. He is further revealed to be God-fearing, a cop who can quickly loose his temper when someone blatantly disrespects the law, and a superior open to any insight from his subordinates. We learn that he is a cop who likes anomalies and when it comes to the law, there’s no fear to hold him back from enforcing it.
Andrew Jones, a qualified medical doctor and assistant pathologist at a hospital has had little time to enjoy a social life thanks to time he had to make for his Ph.D studies. He meets Selena Carrington, a beautiful twenty-year-old woman on the verge of turning twenty-one, in a restaurant. It is on this night that both of Selena’s parents are discovered murdered in their homes.
Selena is a beautiful young woman. She is surprisingly single, however. “She recoiled violently, as if jolted by an electrical charge, and Andrew, shocked, drew back with almost equal suddenness.” Selena reveals to Andrew how this reaction when he tried to brush her cheek with his stems from her father’s conditioning and that it has always happened whenever a boy tried to come close to her. From this, we can already gather that some kind of supernatural force prevents Selena from being physically intimate with anyone and see at least part of what is going to happen later on.
Two of the initial suspects in this case stand out and makes readers consider various reasons, gathering from what they’ve read, why it could be either of the two. One is a Mr. Johnston, a research chemist who makes his untoward feelings about Mr. Carrington, Selena’s murdered father, clear for the detectives questioning him. Though he has motive and an alibi that can’t be proven, it’s not that hard to view him as the killer. If, that is. Mr. Johnston’s behavior during his questioning throws him in the red quite a bit. As one of the detectives point out, the style of the Satanic killings could just be fluff to throw off the police. The second suspect is a wealthy man with an unnerving and evil power lurking behind his eyes that even Sheehan cannot deny. I found my thoughts returning to this one a lot.
During this investigation starting with the skeleton and ending with six new murders, Sheehan and his team know that the people being killed now belong to a coven. I had some inkling as to what the killer’s agenda was, or rather, what I suspected the killer’s agenda was. When the author finally turns the gears of the supernatural element to his story all the way up, readers won’t know what it was that they were hit with, but like me, they will enjoy every moment of it. Even so, O’Hare manages to keep a tight lid on the dark powers explored so as not to diminish the fact that what readers are reading still feels like a police procedural.
Sheehan and his pathologist friend, Dr. Campbell, are old friends, but the stuff they say to each other is often something to laugh about. I like to think of myself as a guy with at least a moderately good sense of humor, but even so, I thought it a bit over the top for Sheehan to make as if he is dodging bullets when his old friend Campbell hits him with a barrage of scientific speak. “… put your trust in Mulvaney and the bishop.” Here, I would rather that the author used either the name God or Jesus Christ in the sentence too. I thought this important to mention because, as I believe it, men alone simply do not possess the power to defeat demons and in this particular part that I quoted from, the author, perhaps unknowingly, states the opposite.
I bet if I sat down with Chief Inspector Jim Sheehan or any of his subordinates now, I’d probably have the same spooked look on my face as them. Brian O’Hare hooks readers with an intimate look at clandestine darkness that cannot easily be shaken. Or forgotten. Don’t believe in demons? Perhaps this book is written just for you.
|Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Date Published: February 11, 2018
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