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Murder in the 1500s
on 29 January 2010
First Sentence: The Burren, on the west coast of Ireland, is a land of white stone and dark gree-blue sea, encircled by swirling terraced mountains of gleaming limestone, soft fertile grass and hard rock; tiny jewel-bright flowers and wind-torn asymmetrical trees; great pagan stone monuments and small ruined Christian churches and abbeys.
Mara, responsible for justice in Burren, Ireland, is set to marry King Turlock, ruler of three kingdoms in Northwest Ireland. He announced he would hold a solitary vigil in the abbey church by the tomb of his ancestor at dawn. When Brehon is awakened to an uproar of voices proclaiming the King has been murdered, she knows it is not true as he was with her. The victim is the King's brother. But who was the intended victim?
I was trying to figure out what about this series appeals to me as much as it does. One answer is the author's descriptive abilities. Harrison is a very evocative writer, not only of era and location, but of people as well. I can "see" what I'm being told and that adds a real richness to the story. It allows the story to become real in my head.
Another answer is the history. Learning about a time, place and, particularly, a system of law only known to me because of this series, is something I value. It also adds a background layer of suspense as you sense the time coming when English law will outlaw Brehon law in the 1600s. When an author can educate, as well as entertain, they gain my respect.
The characters are very well drawn; I felt their personalities. Mara is a very intelligent, strong and capable woman, holds a position of high authority and respect. She also has a bit of Holmes' powers of observations and Miss Marple's ability to appear guileless, who Harrison has very smartly balanced that with Turlock; a king who has been a warrior all his life and tends to react first. While not romantic suspense, by any means, the relationship between Mara and Turlock is nicely done. Surrounding them are multitude of diverse characters and personalities adding layers to the story.
I did appreciate that, in this book, Mara's law students had a much less substantial role in solving the crime. The story is well plotted providing lots of possible suspects and motives along the way. It also raises the issue of canon law versus secular law.
I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to all those who enjoy historical mysteries.
WRIT IN STONE (Hist Mys-Mara, Brehon of the Burren- Ireland-1509/Middle Ages - VG
Harrison, Cora - 4th in series
Severn House, 2009, UK Hardcover - ISBN: 9780727868121