My Lady Judge
St. Martin’s, Sep 2007, $24.95
In 1509 in the Burren region of Ireland, King Tirlough Donn O’Brien and the clan chieftains in this rocky coastal area think highly of the Brehon Mara. She courageously settles disputes and passes judgment on violators of the ancient Brehon law sentencing those convicted of crimes.
Everyone celebrates the May Day festival on Mullaghmore Mountain. Afterward all the revelers return home. However the female judge realizes her assistant Coleman is missing. She organizes a search party that ultimately finds his ravaged by animals corpse on the mountain side with a dagger in his neck. Partly because it is her job as a judge and partly out of loyalty to the murdered Coleman, Mara investigates, but finds no one wants to discuss their dealings with the victim especially with his boss. She soon realizes her assistant was involved in many nefarious activities committing all types of crimes and making enemies who would want him dead. Stunned that she failed to see Coleman’s criminal behavior, Mara also remains blind to the fact that if she keeps digging she will be a victim too as the culprit has plenty beyond a single homicide to hide.
MY LADY JUDGE is an interesting early sixteenth century Irish legal thriller. The story line focuses on Mara’s investigation, which in turn enables the audience to obtain a vivid picture of Brehon legal interpretations and applications in Western Ireland as the heroine is a sort of investigator, judge and jury. The May Day celebration augments the fine plot as the gala and its aftermath provide a sense of time and place. Cora Harrison writes an enjoyable historical whodunit starring a wonderful protagonist who understands no one is above Brehon law.