My love fest for Patrick J. O’Brian has been long and well documented. Well believe it or not, I still have more books of his to read and review. Hallowed Grounds is another one that I recently finished so let’s check it out!
The plot of the story centers around a protagonist, Jeff Lancaster, who comes to own and develop a theme park in southern Indiana, but before he’s able to enjoy his new duties of running the park, his previous life as a police detective drags him into a couple gruesome and brutal murders. As he investigates those murders, connections are made to the property that his shiny new amusement park sits on, complete with a sinister and ghostly past. Those two worlds collide, and Lancaster is left chasing down murderers and legends from his town’s past, trying to make connections in order to tie it all together, save lives, and put an end to the killings.
Hallowed Grounds starts off as a pretty straight-forward murder mystery. That is, until just before halfway into the story anyway; that’s when things take a potential supernatural detour. I won’t dive into spoiler territory, so I won’t reveal the source of the murders in my review. They could be the circumstance of an unhappy spirit, or they could be the result of a bitter rival. You’ll have to check it out for yourself and see!
O’Brian gets the rural, southern Indiana feel spot-on, being very familiar with the area through his West Baden Murders Series. With Hallowed Grounds being set in a nearby town, I’m starting to wonder what kind of deep, dark secrets the hills of southern Indiana actually holds. There was a brief crossover moment between this story and the West Baden Murders Series, which I thoroughly enjoyed and wanted more of…mainly because I’m a total sucker for crossovers, but also because I love the West Baden books so much.
Talking to O’Brian at a signing event, and learning that this story was set at a haunted house-inspired theme park, I could see that aspects of his personality were on full display; namely his interests as an amusement park enthusiast and a Halloween aficionado. I was really looking forward to seeing how things could go awry with the park and its guests. I would have liked to have seen more of that aspect, with O’Brian fully illustrating his amusement park knowledge, but the scenes that were included were all very accurate. He also dives into those themes with some of his other titles (The Sleeping Phoenix and briefly in The Doomsday Clock) so I’m sure redundancy may have been a concern.
The resolution is satisfying, which is always nice. Not all writers have the ability to come up with a sufficient ending, after building up a conflict over the course of an entire book. What really surprised me about Hallowed Grounds was that my favorite part of the book was actually the Prologue. The way O’Brian tied up a loose end that a lot of readers would have completely missed was a great touch.
Hallowed Grounds doesn’t crack my personal Top 5 of O’Brian’s books, but I still give it a solid 4 hatchets out of 5.