Cora Harrison
Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison

Mullaghmore mountain on the Burren, County Clare, Ireland

My Lady Judge, paperback edition

Michaelmas Tribute

Home|The Burren|Guestbook| Reviews|Gaelic|Books|Buy


Reviews of Cora Harrison's

Writ in Stone

(the fourth Burren mystery)


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?

Romantic and 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 independent kingdoms.

Readers new to the author and the setting will find this installment a good introduction.

Publishers Weekly

At 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 ancestor’s tomb.

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 heirs.

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.


Cora 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 occurs'.

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 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.

The Bookbag

Once 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 nuptials!

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 pace.

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!