Sometimes, you come across a book that makes you go back to the beginning of a series. Cora Harrison's Burren mysteries, set in 16th century Ireland, just never caught on with me. But, when I stumbled across her Reverend Mother mysteries, I was hooked. A Shameful Murder is the first in the series, set in the 1920s in Cork, Ireland. The books are historical mysteries, and some of the bit characters were actual people. Ireland's Civil War is over, but the Republican Party is not happy with the state of politics, and there's still gunshots and murder in the streets. But, it's Reverend Mother, caught up in the problems of Cork, that is the most intriguing character.
Reverend Mother Aquinas finds the body of a dead girl in the garden of St. Mary's of the Isle. At first, she assumes the girl was washed up there by the recent flooding, but she and one of her former students, Sergeant Patrick Cashman of the civic guards, both notice the bruises on the girl's neck. And, she isn't dressed as one of the ordinary people of Cork. Both Patrick and Reverend Mother recognize the young woman's dress as a ball gown, probably from the Merchants' Ball the night before. But, what is the daughter of a wealthy merchant doing dead in the convent garden?
That's a question another one of Reverend Mother's former students asks as well. When Eileen O'Donovan climbs over the wall, she's there it two roles. She's now a member of the Republican Party, checking to ensure no one blames them for the death. And, she's a journalist who writes anonymous pieces for the newspaper. Eileen is curious about the story behind the death.
Although a wealthy tea merchant claims the body as his daughter, Patrick has his doubts. The family may want this ruled a suicide, but Patrick, Reverend Mother, and the doctor who handled the body all testify about the bruise and their doubts. Now, Reverend Mother, a woman with her own past amongst the wealthy families, will have to nose around in places where Patrick might not be welcome.
A Shameful Murder is a compelling story that combines history with a mystery. Reverend Mother and her former students have connections throughout Cork, so they're able to move through the city and question different segments of the population. And, they're able to move through the city on rescue missions, when necessary.
As I said, it's Reverend Mother who intrigues me. She comes from a wealthy background, but chose to join the convent. She's now in a powerful position in Cork, and she's well-known there. In her seventies, she's well aware of her own faults, but she's envious of someone like Eileen, a young woman with possibilities that young women of Reverend Mother's day never had.
Come for the mystery. But, I'm guessing, if you like the series, it's Reverend Mother who will bring you back. She's a strong character living in a difficult time in history. If the next four books in this ongoing series are as riveting as this one, I've found a historical series that's gripping and engaging.
Cora Harrison's website is coraharrison.com
A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison. Severn House, 2015. ISBN 9780727885111 (hardcover), 248p.
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book