Saturday, September 21, 2013

DECLAN'S CROSS by Carla Neggers: a review and a sip of Irish whiskey

Declan's Cross (Sharpe & Donovan #3)
Author: Carla Neggers
Edition: Hardcover, 320 pages
Published by Harlequin MIRA on August 27, 2013
Genre: contemporary novel, murder mystery, suspense, romantic suspense
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"Ireland's the best place to heal a broken heart."

A serial art heist, a thief on the loose, a murder mystery that had me scratching my head to the very end, a light touch of romance, and all the breathtaking beauty of an old Irish village tucked on the Celtic Sea cliffs...the visual impact of this third installment of the Sharpe & Donovan series is simply spectacular. A master of her craft, New York Times best-selling author Carla Neggers delivered in all the crucial aspects of the romantic suspense genre. I only wish I had taken the time to read the prequels (Saint's Gate and Heron's Cove) as the three books are loosely connected and character development of the lead couple has an arc that originates in the first installment.

For FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, a two-week retreat in the pretty village of Declan's Cross will turn into an art theft and murder investigation. Just when the ex-nun, art crime expert Emma and under-cover agent Colin thought they could leave all thoughts of deadly missions back in Boston, enjoy life the Irish way, sipping on whiskey and Guinness, and taking in the Celtic charm of romantic mansions and ancient ruins, they find themselves in the thick of it. Not only is Declan's Cross the scene of a decade-old art heist: the disappearance of a woman who was about to launch a marine science research facility in the tiny village seem to have a strong connection with that unresolved case of ten years ago.

Carla Neggers
One of the aspects that intrigued me the most about this complex, plot-driven murder mystery is that all the members of the Irish village seem to be an ideal suspect. Almost in the vein of a cozy 'whodunit', the author chooses a small, secluded, and socially intimate community as a setting for her crime story. While downplaying the gritty elements of a thriller and avoiding the sensual intensity typical of a romance novel, Carla Neggers banks on a rich stock of supporting characters in order to keep her readers on their toes and mislead them on a trail of red herrings from the first to the last chapter. Not all the loose ends will be tied up  at end, a clear indication that we will hear again from the serial art thief and from Sharpe Fine Art Recovery. All in all, Declan's Cross is a clever combination of compelling and well thought-out suspense plot, highly descriptive narrative, atmospheric setting, and subtle romance. With its thematic focus on the stunning beauty of coastal Ireland,  its complex and mysterious connection between a serial art thief and a charming seaside village, Neggers' new novel will transfix armchair sleuths as well as lovers of all things Celtic. 
***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return of an unbiased and honest review.
***Read my Q&A with Carla here.


A sip of Irish sweetness...

Ireland has a rich and long history of distilling and its whiskey is normally synonymous of that iconic amber-colored mash of malted and unmalted barley. Purists like Neggers' characters Colin Donovan and Sean Murphy will only drink it straight (not even 'on the rocks'), but there are many other creative ways to enjoy this approachable and easy sipping liquor.

Try it in this tart, cherry-spiked Champagne cocktail, great with shellfish, especially shrimp, lobster, and crab...I can imagine lobsterman Andy Donovan and marine biologist Julianne having a romantic dinner back at Rock Point, Maine, sipping on this nectar (click here for a recipe).

Combine it with cream and spices to celebrate Halloween the Irish way: during that time of the year Irish people bake a special bread called barm brack, which contains raisins and currants. Traditionally, small objects, such as a ring or a pea, were baked inside the loaf for a fortune-telling game (click here for a recipe). 

Excellent as a light, fruity dessert after a big meal...try it with blackberries and cream (click here for a recipe). 

Simply decadent when you mix it with chocolate, over ice or even ice cream (click here for a recipe.)

With the approach of the cold season and its ailments, you may want to consider Irish whiskey to treat colds: Irish people often drink it mixed with ginger, honey, lemon, and a bit of hot water (click here for a recipe).

Sláinte! (Gaelic for cheers)

***Pictures and recipes, courtesy of Food&Wine.



  1. Oh Mina~~what a fabulous review and fun drink pairing for sure! Sláinte!

  2. Hi hi,

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    Irene @ Ice Queen's Bookshelf