Publication Date: March 19, 2014
In Clonmac’s Bridge by Jeffrey Perren, a maritime archeologist from the University of Virginia, Griffin Clonmac finds a perfectly preserved ninth-century bridge in Ireland, submerged in the mud of the River Shannon. Everyone, including his lover and the Irish Government, seems to be working against Griffin to discover its secrets. The story travels between the modern day excavation and the ninth-century monastery.
The author’s publicist gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
My husband and I went to see the movie Enemy at the Gate in the theater many years ago. We walked away with the feeling of having witnessed something fabulous that had been diluted and distracted by a love story that really had no place in the narrative. I had exactly the feeling reading the romantic subplot in Clonmac’s Bridge. On page 87, Mari stretches and notices Griffin admiring her so coyly, holds the pose. Now anyone reading the novel will know that Mari has a lot to worry about and to have that sort of moment seems trite and unworthy of the story Perren has built. Mari and Griffin are solid characters enacting a sexual tension that seems somewhat tacked into the story. A story that is, for the most part, well written, well plotted and engaging.
Clonmac’s Bridge is a globetrotting thriller featuring an archeologist who will stop at nothing to solve a historical mystery. Perren cites in a footnote that the story was inspired by an actual archeological discovery while all else is fiction. The story is written with a strong sense of authenticity. Perren invites the reader to point out errors that he might have made in the ninth-century chapters of the novel. The language and care for readers, speak of an author with a deep investment in history and accuracy of his narrative.
Griffin Clonmac is a well-rounded character. At the start of the story, we get a picture of a man who is perhaps a bit wonderful. Too good-looking, too charming and too willing to do absolutely anything to find what he seeks. As we get to know the character we discover that while he has flaws, Griffin’s challenge is to stay ahead of the people trying to stop him. In order to stay ahead, Griffin is canny, quick-witted and ideally suited for this challenge. A lesser man wouldn’t stand a chance because Perren isn’t likely to cut this character a break. He may survive by his wits, but Griffin has to work to make his story happen and everyone is looking to stop him, from those close to him to colleagues, he’s always despised.
Complicating Griffin’s life is Mari. She lost a team member in an explosion and has the resulting investigation weighing heavily as well as a bad case of survivor’s guilt. Her father is controlling and powerful and she has had to slip away to be part of the expedition. While she is a strong and a well-written character, she is somewhat discredited in her role as a femme fatale. Clonmac’s Bridge certainly could not have done without her influence and feedback. She acts as a foil and sounding board to the sometimes more impetuous Griffin.
Perren’s plot is information-heavy. For this highly detailed story to make sense, the reader has to know what the author knows and he does so with a skill that doesn’t slow down the story. The last third of Clonmac’s Bridge barrels to an eventual conclusion without leaving the reader in the dark. There are no stones unturned, no threads untied. Every element is natural, logical and something of a surprise.
If you like thrillers, Clonmac’s Bridge is a wonderful and complete read even though the sexual tension is perhaps a little ill-fitting.
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