This most satisfying addition to Harrison’s series about Mara, the Lady Judge to three kingdoms, has at its heart the clash between English law and Brehon law. Stephen Gardiner is in Ireland to stir up trouble and to find Irish lords willing to bend the knee to Henry VIII in exchange for titles of nobility. He finds eager listeners among clansmen who are nor familiar with Mara and her grasp of men and laws. Mara has to reassert her authority in the case of a mysterious murder.
Also troubling Mara is the persistent problem of Nuala, her best friends daughter. A competent physician and independently wealthy young women, she is desperately unhappy. The man she loves seems entangled by the pretty blue eyes and curly blond hair of one of Mara’s students.
Mara is able to solve the mystery of a murdered and and see the result of her lack of meddling in affairs of the heart as both problems come to their solution. The problem of English encroachment is put to rest for the time being, but bodes ill for the future.
This time murder is personal. When Nuala, 14-year-old doctor in training, is suspected of killing her father, Mara rises from her childbirth bed to find the killer. She has a long list of suspects to choose from. Malachy the physician was hungry for silver and less than competent. Mara has many suspects to choose from, but she refuses to believe Nuala guilty of this murder. In spite of her own weakness, she must pull herself together and use all her investigative skills to find the real murderer.
I like Cora Harrison and have been enjoying Mara, Brehon (high judge) of the three kingdoms very much. Life wasn’t easy for a working mother in the 16th century, even if she was the wife of the king. There’s her duties as wife, as judge in a murder case, as head of a law school, and as a mother, all vying for her attention.
Unlike the stories set in the Burren, western Ireland, this takes place mostly in her husband town and is less enjoyable that those set in her home. Mara seems scattered and distracted, pulled in too many directions. One of her students goes missing for several days, and aside from a spare thought now and then, she does nothing about it.
An unbelievable flash of insight enables her to solve the mystery and the puzzle of her missing student’s whereabouts. It’s all rather to be taken on faith rather than Mara working it out clue by clue. That being said, this is a satisfying read, with lots of insight into Brehon law and Irish history.