Saturday, June 30, 2018

Death of a Novice by Cora Harrison

I'll admit I could never get into Cora Harrison's Burren mysteries set in 16th century Ireland. What a difference 400 years makes!  Death of a Novice is the fifth book to feature Reverend Mother Aquinas in 1920s Cork. Now, that's my period of Irish history. I liked Reverend Mother and the traditional mystery. I've gone back to pick up the earlier books.

In this series, Harrison capitalizes on the recent and ongoing turmoil in Ireland. Reverend Mother finds the body of a young novice, Sister Gertrude, in the chicken coop. She doesn't expect a young woman to have died a natural death, but she's surprised when she learns Sister Gertrude's father recently died of the same symptoms. But, she's suspicious. When Eileen MacSweeney, a former student and a former rebel, shows up with stories of two young novices used in the rebel cause, Sister Gertrude looks to the convent for motive. However, she worries that Sister Gertrude's death could have political implications.

Reverend Mother is an amateur sleuth in the traditional style. She reminds me of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael, living in a religious setting, but caught up in the secular world and its crimes. In some ways, she reminds me of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. She does leave the convent, however, most of Reverend Mother's sources of information come to her. And, she has the stature in the community to command respect from many. Her position makes her a formidable sleuth. Add the fact that many of the young people, from a former rebel like Eileen to the newly promoted Inspector Patrick Cashman, a member of the Garda, studied at the convent school. It makes for an interesting pool of assistants.

There are historical figures present in the book, including political zealots. Harrison manages to write a traditional mystery while capitalizing on a fascinating historical period. Death of a Novice enticed me into the world of 1920s Cork. It's led me back to the beginning to the first Reverend Mother mystery, A Shameful Murder. It's wonderful to find another intriguing historical series.

Cora Harrison's website is

Death of a Novice by Cora Harrison. Severn House. 2018. ISBN 9780727887832 (hardcover), 240p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Grandma Cootie said...

Thanks for your review, Lesa. This one is going next in line on my TBR list. Irish history in this period is always good and I thought Brother Cadfael right away, but you had me at Nero Wolfe.

Lesa said...

I've now read a couple of the early ones in the series, Grandma Cootie. One was just average, but this one and the other int he series were very good.