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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Mountains Wild: Sarah Stewart Taylor, A Review

The Mountains Wild is my favorite book of the year so far, and I can tell right now, it'll be hard to beat.

It's been more than twenty years since Maggie D'arcy's cousin Erin went missing in Dublin, but when Roly, the detective who worked the original case, calls with new information and potentially devastating news, Maggie knows she must return to Ireland--maybe not to find her cousin alive, but with the hope of finding answers and closure. And while part of her longs to be back in Dublin, D'arcy knows it also means becoming involved in an investigation of another missing girl, digging up old memories, old pain, and old suspicions. The way Taylor structured the book worked really well here. Flashbacks and memories inextricably linked with the present, slowly building tension and suspicion. This didn't read as a slow burn, though, more like a masterfully-crafted puzzle of suspense and mystery. Side characters have well-developed story arcs and personalities that connect with the main characters in a way that enhances the doubt you feel as you read. At no point did I ever feel like I had a solid grasp on who the perpetrator was, and because of this, the page-turning conclusion was satisfying and thrilling. In the acknowledgements, Taylor said this book was like a love letter to Ireland, and I felt her love breathing in every page. The prose is lyrical, beautiful in its description and wrought with history. I appreciated the bits of Irish song, language, and the geographical walk-throughs of Dublin. I traveled there myself in my early twenties, and I felt more connected to the D'arcy rediscovering her old stomping grounds because I had a crisp visual of Temple Bar in my mind. What I truly appreciated, though, was how much common sense and real-life decision making her characters employed. So often in thrillers we get caught up in the blood and murder, stretching the boundaries of disbelief. None of that felt present here. D'arcy follows rules. She is a good detective who understands that being a hero doesn't mean there's always a happy ending. When pearls of distrust arise, she doesn't embark on some revenge-filled spy scene to find the truth. She communicates her feelings to the other person, and while this seems simple, it was so refreshing to read a book that relied on more grounded scenarios. Instead of being surprised at the outlandishness, I was pleasantly surprised at how normal the characters were, and that made them all the more heartbreaking as the story progressed. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing an eArc in exchange for review consideration. Beautiful, atmospheric, and engrossing, The Mountains Wild is one you truly don't want to miss.


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