My Lady Judge

My Lady Judge by Cora Harrison.  The idea of a historical mystery set in ancient Ireland with a female investigator is certainly not a new one.  However, readers of the immensely popular Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne will find significant differences in the character of Mara, Brehon of the Burren.  Mara is older and more mature, already a grandmother, and divorced from her first husband.  As a dalaigh, Fidelma investigates cases, but as a brehon, Mara must ultimately sit in judgment and make decisions under the watchful eyes of both her community and her king.  This responsibility and her management of the local law school are key elements that formulate her character.  The time period of 1509, more than 800 years after Fidelma’s adventures, brings with it new complications in the form of influence from England and its laws, a theme likely to be more prominent if this series continues.

However, there are also many similarities.  Mara must search for clues that appear like flowers among the clints to solve the case of a violent death within a community seeking justice, but also holding many secrets.  Plenty of local suspects are uncovered and a political element is also exposed.  Harrison’s tone and pacing are reminiscent of Tremayne’s and her description of the lush, yet rocky Irish countryside matches his as well.  Overall, Mara is a welcome, complementary addition to the stable of Irish crime solvers.

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