Bog Man by John McAllister from Requiems for the Departed

Requiems for the DepartedCombining ancient Celtic legends and the amazing powers of preservation found in peat bogs, John McAllister has created in “Bog Man” a wonderfully atmospheric murder investigation set in the lowlands of Iron Age Britain.

Thrust directly into an investigation already in progress, the reader joins Tarlóir, a displaced hill-man whose job it is to bring order to the lowlands, in his search to identify who killed the “bog man” body he’s been called to investigate. Was the man a victim of murder, or a ritual sacrifice? In order to find out Tarlóir will have to confront a secretive, closed community known as the Morrigans (surely a nod to the anthology’s publisher, Morrigan Books).

A man once young and wild for whom “upholding the law of the Feni was lifetime penalty for his own youthful revolt,” Tarlóir has finally reached a thoughtful, contemplative point in his life. Patiently picking through the clues left for him by the bog man’s corpse and surround articles Tarlóir brings to mind Gil Grissom (CSI) as an ancient Highlander or an Iron Age Sherlock Holmes.

McAllister has great skill at evoking powerful images and vividly brings to life a very different time and place. Readers can almost feel the peat bog sucking greedily at their feet, and will sympathize with Tarlóir’s longing for the “honest cold” of the highlands, not the sneaky “persistent wind” of the lowlands that’s always finding “a gap at his neckline and chilling his back.”

As can be the case with a short story the experience felt a bit stilted, with the ending in particular seeming rather abrupt. All in all, however, I found “Bog Man” to be both an enjoyable read and a refreshing change of pace as far as the setting for a murder investigation goes.



Note: This review was originally published on the Spinetingler website as part of their Requiems for the Departed anthology review project.
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