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My Lady Judge: A Mystery of Medieval Ireland Paperback – 19 Aug 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (19 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312386117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312386115
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,945,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

My Lady Judge Five hundred years ago, the western seaboard of Ireland was home to an independent kingdom that lived peacefully by the ancient Celtic laws of their forebears. On the first eve of a festive celebration, all the people of the land headed up Mullaghmore Mountain to light a bonfire. But one man--assistant to Mara, the King's appointed judge and lawgiver--did not return. For two days he lay in the mou... Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Oct 2014
Format: Paperback
This gently-paced tale set on the Burren region in the west of Ireland, shows a lady Brehon or judge called Mara. She teaches a law school of young students - the author has been a principal teacher. At this time Henry VIII has just come to power in England and there are fears that the new wealthy king will look to extend his power overseas.

Mara fears that the students may be involved when a young man is found dead after a traditional celebration on a mountain. However she is a kind and trusted person so she manages to get the stories out of various people to determine what happened and with whom. Along the way she travels by foot and by pony, so the story is not fast-moving. Animals are important in the story as they were to the farming people. Characters are well described as is the countryside, native plants and foods, and the atmosphere of the time.

We also get a quotation of Brehon laws before each chapter, telling us the degrees of marriage (seven); the obligations when rearing a foster-son; and the occasions when injuring someone is not liable to incur a penalty, such as during sports or when the injuring party is slow-witted. These all help to set the scene and explain why a Brehon judge was respected by the people.

Anyone who enjoys the mysteries about Brother Cadfael or Sister Fidelma should have fun with this series, which is distinct in not having a religious main character. The second book is called The Michaelmas Tribute.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 28 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable, refreshing story 2 Jun 2009
By Sophia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In "My Lady Judge," Cora Harrison introduces Mara O'Davoren, Brehon of the Kingdom of the Burren, in sixteenth-century Ireland. In addition to her usual duties as judge, Mara runs a law school on her premises, and, as the story opens, one of her students is murdered.

This story is fairly slow-paced and meanders a bit, so readers who prefer a fast-moving plot might not find it enjoyable. World-building is one of the high points of Harrison's writing. I found the insights into the history and culture of Ireland fascinating, even to small details of clothes, houses and food. Mara is a fun heroine, very smart, a touch vain, a bit arrogant, but with the ability to recognize her faults and laugh at herself. The supporting characters are also strong, believable and interesting.

I look forward to reading additional items in this series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A welcome new addition to historical mysteries set in medieval Ireland 8 April 2010
By Cathy G. Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Book Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: It was then, as it is now, a land of grey stone.

Thirty-six-year-old Mara is the Brehon (judge) of the kingdom of the Burren in western Ireland, and also in charge of the law school. When everyone in the area troops up Mullaghmore Mountain to celebrate a feast day, Mara's assistant, Colman, does not return. Two days later his body is found up on the mountain in close proximity to where the celebration occurred. Although Colman has never been popular, Mara has to wonder how he could die so close to revelry... and no one sees a thing. As judge, it is her business to bring the murderer to justice.

Each chapter of My Lady Judge begins with a bit of medieval Irish law, which I found to be very interesting. Sometimes I even found those ancient laws to be better than current ones, such as this judgment concerning someone we would call developmentally disabled today:

"The Court finds that Feirdin MacNamera is to be classified as fer lethcuinn, a half-sane man. This means that he has the protection of the court and the community. Anyone who incites him to commit a crime must himself pay the penalty, anyone who mocks him will be fined five sets, two and a half ounces of silver, or three milch cows. This is the law of the king."

Once Mara discovers the main reason why Colman was so unpopular, she has more suspects than she knows what to do with, so she proceeds to investigate as quickly as she can. Most of Mara's investigative skills could be chalked up to plain old common sense, and although I enjoyed the mystery and the glimpse into another time and place, I didn't appreciate the solution to the murder being told to me at the end of the book. Take me along during the entire process. Don't lock me up in my room until it's over, then sit me down in front of the fire to tell me a story.

Occasionally the bits of Irish law, customs, clothing and language got to be a bit too much, momentarily dragging me out of the story, but I jumped back in with little trouble because I enjoyed the setting and the character of Mara so much. I look forward to reading other books in this series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
New Addition to Irish mystries 29 Jan 2010
By James Tauber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a fan of Peter Tremayne this was recommended by the Amazon system. I was not disappointed. The author provides a good mystery that allows the heroine to provide a narrative of 16th Century Ireland. The story develops well and gives a nice introduction to the Burren region of Ireland. The Brehon law, as it applies to the events, is explained at a simple level and leaves hooks to deeper exploration. Cora Harrison does a nice job in placing you in the landscape of the area and providing insight to the culture of the time. The mystery provides detail of the area, introduces and develops several characters as well as keeping your attention.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A fine beginning 28 Mar 2010
By Cheryl A. Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First of a new historical series set in early 16th century Ireland, featuring Mara, Brehon (judge and lawyer) of the Burren, a somewhat isolated area of western Ireland. When one of Mara's assistants at the law school she runs, Colman, is found stabbed to death the morning after the Beltaine celebration on the mountain, it is up to her to investigate. Before too long, she realizes that she was not the only person who didn't much like her unpleasant assistant--he was blackmailing numerous people, and thus the suspect list keeps growing longer the more Mara looks into things.

It was interesting to read this book, given that one of my favorite historical series is Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series, featuring another Brehon but taking place nine centuries earlier. Much of the same laws were retained, and many of the Gaelic words were familiar from reading that series. There are some similarities between Mara and Fidelma, but many differences as well.

This author does a wonderful job of setting the scene, giving a real sense of place with wonderful descriptive writing. Mara's character becomes quite well drawn and defined by the end of the book, and she's a character that I definitely want to go back and visit, along with the secondary characters she's introduced us to. I quite enjoyed this, and subsequent books may even be better once I get over the comparison to Tremayne's books.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Disappointment 7 Sep 2013
By j david kelley jr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was intrigued by the premise when I read about this book on line, but when I started it, I found the Judge mostly judging the culture around her with 20th century eyes and the cases that she was encountering not particularly interesting. I didn't finish it.
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