Therese Walsh’s debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, opens with Maeve Leahy remembering losing her twin “on a harsh November nine years ago.” So it’s obvious why she has struggled with every November. That is, until now. On a whim, she attends an auction to bid on a keris, a Javanese-style dagger that launches her extraordinary journey where her past and present collide.
Though Maeve becomes a successful professor of languages at a university in Bethany, New York; it’s no surprise that she feels incomplete without her twin. So the keris reminds her of happier days in her youth when she played with her keris pretending to be Alvilda, the pirate queen. She lost the original keris in the bay near her childhood home in Castine, Maine.
Soon after the auction, she finds a pocket-sized book on weaponry in an envelope nailed to her office door. The book provides details about the keris. This anonymous message is the first of handful she receives regarding her keris, which leads her traveling to Rome bringing her near to someone she loved, Noel Ryan. He had left New York for France to track down his mother and Maeve’s childhood friend makes sure the two reconnect during her stay in Rome, Italy.
The two have an uneasy reunion in Rome, but they take the time to explore the city while searching for an empu who can unlock the secrets of her dagger. The author provides intricate details of the scenes in Castine, Bethany and Rome while blending them into the story in a masterful way.
Even good novels sometimes lag in getting the reader up to speed on specifics, but this suspenseful story never dawdles. Walsh grabs and holds the reader’s curiosity from the first page to the last as she explores girls’ past, Maeve’s relationships and the intriguing history of kerises. The author also effortlessly transitions the story back and forth between Maeve’s present time and “out of time” during the twin sisters’ childhood and adolescent years. The main characters make unpopular decisions adding more authenticity and less predictability to the story.
The secrets, travels, fantasy and humor will trigger your craving for answers to all of your questions from what happened to Moira to what makes the keris so important. The Last Will of Moira Leahy may be Walsh’s first novel, but she took risks by using multiple narrative modes, flipping between past and present and avoiding the easy route. The result is a gripping and rich story that will linger in readers’ minds for a little while.
You can feed the need for more of the story by checking out the extras on Walsh’s web site.
A disclaimer today to keep the FTC away: I received a copy of the book from the publisher.