American Library Association Booklist
Mara, Brehon of the Burren, must determine the culprit and
allocate punishment when a man is violently murdered as he
kneels before the altar of the Cistercian Abbey sanctuary two
days before Christmas, while leaders of the O’Brien clan
gather to honor the memory of a revered ancestor and celebrate
Mara’s impending marriage to Turlough, their King.
But was the
dead man the intended victim, or did the assassin confuse him
with Turlough, scheduled to take the first vigil?
political intrigues abound in Harrison’s evocative and very
accessible Irish historical mystery, fourth in the Burren
series set in 1509, which offers an intimate glimpse of this
pivotal time when conflicts between Ireland’s rule by law and
Rome’s attempts to broaden its power base were exacerbated by
King Henry VIII’s forays into the area to annex its many small
Readers new to the author and the
setting will find this installment a good introduction.
the outset of Harrison’s outstanding fourth 16th-century
historical to feature Mara—brehon (a kind of magistrate) of
the Burren, a kingdom on the west coast of Ireland (after The
Sting of Justice, Oct. 19)—King Turlough O’Brien decides at
the last minute to skip an overnight church vigil before an
As a result, an assassin instead bludgeons to death the man
who takes his place, the king’s cousin Mahon O’Brien. Mara,
the king’s fiancée, isn’t entirely sure that her husband-to-be
was the intended victim and focuses her investigation on those
who would have benefited from the death of Turlough or his
cousin, including Mahon’s widows and the king’s potential
Harrison provides a textbook example of how to do a
historical right by artfully combining an insightful and
sympathetic detective with a fair-play puzzle and a plausible
depiction of the period.
Harrison is a former teacher who has written many books
for children and teenagers. When she moved to Kilfenora near
Burren she got inspired to start writing these historical crime
novels that takes place in a medieval Burren.
Writ in Stone
is the latest book in Cora Harrison's Burren Mysteries Series.
'Christmas, 1509. Mara, the investigating judge of the Burren,
has accepted the offer of marriage made by King Turlough. But on
the eve of the marriage festivities, a man kneeling in prayer in
the abbey church is violently murdered. Who could have planned to
kill the king? Cut off from the outside world by heavy snow, Mara
must act quickly to catch the assassin before a second death
This is a lovely book for everyone who enjoys an intriguing
mystery set in a historical environment, especially if you have an
interest in the west of Ireland. The fact that the story takes
place in Christmas time makes this book very suitable as a
Christmas gift, either to yourself or to someone else!
You can find more Burren Mystery books if you visit Amazon.com.
The first book in the series is called
My Lady Judge: A Mystery of Medieval Ireland
. Read, enjoy and learn more about the west of Ireland.
again we are transported back to medieval Ireland, following
the life and times of the charismatic lady judge, Mara, and
her fiancé King Turlough. A violent and horrific murder sets
the stage for a dramatic prelude to the happy couple's
I was thrilled and delighted, when the Bookbag was able to get
a pre-publication copy of this latest instalment, as I have become
a huge fan of Cora Harrison. In some, almost indefinable way, she
raises the genre of historical crime to new levels - I can't
actually put my finger on exactly what distinguishes this series
from others of its type. Suffice to say that we are always treated
to a very clever whodunit, set in a landscape which is beautifully
evoked - and peopled with some marvellous characters, whose lives
I follow with close attention.
This fourth instalment wastes no time in getting down to
business, and we have a brutal murder (and potential attempted
regicide) in the first chapter. My heart was literally in my
mouth, as King Turlough is a marvellous creation - one of my
favourite characters - and I simply couldn't believe that the
author had plans for his demise… The wedding party has gathered,
and we have a larger than usual cast of suspects in this novel.
The weather ensures that all are stranded at the abbey, and the
murderer is therefore amidst them - Mara must work at speed
before the murderer attempts to slip away. This is perhaps a
rather clichéd devise, but it works well under the circumstances,
and gives an added impetus to keep the narrative moving forward at
The cast of suspects is rather large - some with potentially
obvious motives, some with more hidden grievances - but of course,
at all times we must keep in mind - was the right man murdered, or
did the assassin intend to murder someone else? Obviously this
complicates the plot somewhat, as there appear to be reasons why
either scenario would be possible. I felt this was a clever twist,
but at the same time, it did complicate the issue. More background
information on the cast of suspects would have been welcomed - in
actual fact, there were very few clues pointing to the murderer,
which was a pity. I think most people who read this type of genre
want to think that they have a chance of solving the murder - I
was nowhere close to doing so! Naturally, this would have made the
novel much longer - but I think that the content was strong enough
to be able to have done this.
As time progresses, Mara is emerging as an ever stronger
character, and her relationships form an important corner stone to
the series. Whether dealing with her servants, scholars, local
inhabitants, she does so with great tact and dignity, endearing
her to most whose orbits cross her life. There are a few
exceptions - Murrough, one of Turlough's sons, is clearly less
than enamoured with his prospective stepmother. But this
relationship is nonetheless an important one, and gives us
tantalising glimpses into the equivalent lifestyle in England -
which he embraces wholeheartedly, and which will doubtless be the
scene of strife between him and his father in subsequent novels. I
hope that this potential wider picture doesn't detract too much
from the life and times of the Burren community, but I suspect
that it will be used primarily to emphasise the vast differences
between the legal systems in England and Ireland.
Mara's scholars play a small part in this episode, but are
nonetheless pivotal, as always, with their observations. Some
intriguing characters from the monastery also come to the fore,
and I hope that they too will be further developed in future
novels. Mara's housekeeper/guardian/friend, assumes a strong
role, and it's wonderful to see Mara being cosseted - something
which she will need in progressively larger amounts, if the
cliff-hanger of a conclusion is to unfold in the next instalment!
In conclusion, Cora Harrison has once more excelled in this
latest work, and I hope that it will win her an increasingly loyal
fan base. It would be well worth reading the novels in sequence,
but they could be read as stand alones, as the author takes great
care to explain the relevant nuances, so that any new reader can
pick up the series at a point at which interests them. It goes
without saying, that I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment!