Cora Harrison
Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison

Mullaghmore mountain on the Burren, County Clare, Ireland

My Lady Judge, paperback edition

Michaelmas Tribute

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The Burren mysteries


Reviews for Cora Harrison's

Eye of the Law

(the fifth Burren mystery)



The Burren on the Atlantic coast in the south-west Ireland is an ancient kingdom, mentioned in the earliest annals of the Gaels as the stony place.

Ten miles out to sea, the three islands of Aran have been part of that kingdom from time immemorial. Inisheer, Inismaan and Inishmore, flat lands of rugged stone pavements, of crumbling fissured rocks and cliffs towering over the stormy ocean, all three have been formed by the same seas and the same glaciers as the Burren; their people spoke the same language, worshipped the same gods, and paid tribute to the same king, first the O’Lochlainns and later the O’Briens.

At Bealtaine in the year 1410 Turlough Donn O’Brien, then tánaiste (heir) to the king of Thomond, Corcomroe and Burren, travelled to the Aran Islands to receive their tribute in the name of his uncle, Conor na Srona. He was accompanied by his cousin Teige O’Brien and by young Ardal O’Lochlainn, tánaiste to the O’Lochlainn clan on the Burren.

The weather was fine and the three young men enjoyed the feasting and dancing and the attention paid to them by the island women. Ardal and Teige vied with each other for the favours of the redheaded daughter of the blacksmith.

Twenty years later her son, Iarla, arrived in the kingdom of the Burren and claimed Ardal O’Lochlainn for his father.

The time he chose for the announcement was inauspicious. It was St Patrick’s Day, on the seventeenth day of March, the day of the marriage between Teige O’Brien’s son, Donal and Maeve MacNamara. A hundred people had gathered to celebrate the event. The day was blustery, but the enormous fire lit in the shelter of the walled courtyard of Lemeanah Castle gave warmth enough to keep most of the huge crowd out-of-doors, some singing, some dancing to the music of the fiddle, some listening to the story told by a wandering bard.

Mara, wife of King Turlough Donn O’Brien and Brehon of his kingdom of the Burren, now five months pregnant and hoping for an easy few months ahead and the safe delivery of her child in mid-July, was also present at the festivities. She had been listening to the newly arrived bard telling the story of Balor, smiling to herself at how cleverly he had worked in the connection with the Fear Bréige (the deceitful man) boulder and its nearby cave. And then the storyteller had faltered. All eyes had left him and had gone to the dramatic meeting between Ardal and the young man.

Mara spoke with Ardal afterwards. Everything had been done according to the law. The blacksmith’s daughter, now the wife of another blacksmith, had confessed her sin on her deathbed; a priest had been there and his written testimony was brought by young Iarla. Ardal had been named as the father; Brehon law gave this right of naming to a woman and there was a rule that a woman when her life was in danger had to be taken a true witness.

There would be problems, Mara knew.

But she did not expect the discovery of a dead body, two weeks later, in Balor’s cave.

There had been trouble during those two weeks, doubts had been cast, fears expressed and hot words exchanged. Iarla himself had been surly, unpleasant and his behaviour with some of the young women, particularly the attractive young daughter of Teige O’Brien, had stirred up ill-feeling among many.

But whose hand had battered the young man to death? Who had dragged the body into the cave? And who had robbed the body of one eye?






In 1510 Ireland, Mara, Brehon (a kind of magistrate) of the Burren, is not only pregnant and still teaching law students at her school but must also solve the murder of a young man who claimed the wealthy Ardal O’Lochlainn to be his father.

Ardal is the prime suspect, but a number of small details are not quite right in this scenario. Mara draws on her students’ abilities to discover the real motive behind this murder and another.

VERDICT Harrison uses the 16th-century Irish legal system as a springboard for her finely constructed historical mysteries featuring a clear-thinking and sympathetic sleuth.

Her fifth series entry (after Writ in Stone) is outstanding both for its attention to detail and historical correctness. Historical mystery fans won’t want to miss this one. 1st June 2010


Starred review in Publishers Weekly 4/19/2010

Set in 1510, Harrison’s excellent fifth Irish historical (after 2009’s Writ in Stone) finds series heroine Mara, the brehon of the kingdom of the Burren who serves both as an investigating magistrate and law school professor, married to King Turlough Donn and expecting his child.

When two strangers arrive from the Aran Islands to announce that one of them, 20-year-old Iarla, is the previously unknown son of local noble Ardal O’Lochlainn, they cite as evidence the dying confession of Iarla’s mother.

That statement, under existing law, is considered the most sacred of deathbed oaths. Since Iarla and Ardal don’t resemble each other, Mara decides to wait two weeks before rendering her verdict on their relationship.

Soon afterward, someone kills Iarla by poking a knife or stick into one of his eyes, leaving the body outside a cave reputed to be the home of a malevolent one-eyed god.

Harrison smoothly integrates the legal system of 16th-century Ireland into the story line.