Writ in Stone (Burren Mysteries) by Cora Harrison

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Writ in Stone (Burren Mysteries) by Cora Harrison

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale
Summary: The fourth in the very impressive Burren series. On the eve of the royal wedding a murdered man is found at the altar in the church - but was the wrong man the unfortunate victim?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Severn House Publishers Ltd
ISBN: 978-0727868121

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Once again we are transported back to medieval Ireland, following the life and times of the charismatic lady judge, Marra, and her fiancé King Turlough . A violent and horrific murder sets the stage for a dramatic prelude to the happy couple's nuptials!

I was thrilled and delighted, when the Bookbag was able to get a pre-publication copy of this latest instalment, as I have become a huge fan of Cora Harrison. In some, almost indefinable way, she raises the genre of historical crime to new levels - I can't actually put my finger on exactly what distinguishes this series from others of its ilk. Suffice to say that we are always treated to a very clever whodunit, set in a landscape which is beautifully evoked - and peopled with some marvellous characters, whose lives I follow with close attention.

This fourth instalment wastes no time in getting down to business, and we have a brutal murder (and potential attempted regicide) in the first chapter. My heart was literally in my mouth, as King Turlough is a marvellous creation - one of my favourite characters - and I simply couldn't believe that the author had plans for his demise! I don't think I will be spoiling too much by suggesting that all is not as it appears… The wedding party has gathered, and we have a larger than usual cast of suspects in this novel. The weather ensures that all are stranded at the abbey, and the murderer is therefore amidst them - Marra must work at speed before the murderer attempts to slip away. This is perhaps a rather clichéd devise, but it works well under the circumstances, and gives an added impetus to keep the narrative moving forward at pace.

The cast of suspects is rather large - some with potentially obvious motives, some with more hidden grievances - but of course, at all times we must keep in mind - was the right man murdered, or did the assassin intend to murder someone else? Obviously this complicates the plot somewhat, as there appear to be reasons why either scenario would be possible. I felt this was a clever twist, but at the same time, it did complicate the issue. More background information on the cast of suspects would have been welcomed - in actual fact, there were very few clues pointing to the murderer, which was a pity. I think most people who read this type of genre want to think that they have a chance of solving the murder - I was nowhere close to doing so! Naturally, this would have made the novel much longer - but I think that the content was strong enough to be able to have done this.

As time progresses, Marra is emerging as an ever stronger character, and her relationships form an important corner stone to the series. Whether dealing with her servants, scholars, local inhabitants, she does so with great tact and dignity, endearing her to most whose orbits cross her life. There are a few exceptions - Murrough, one of Turlough's sons, is clearly less than enamoured with his prospective stepmother. But this relationship is nonetheless an important one, and gives us tantalising glimpses into the equivalent lifestyle in England - which he embraces wholeheartedly, and which will doubtless be the scene of strife between him and his father in subsequent novels. I hope that this potential wider picture doesn't detract too much from the life and times of the Burren community, but I suspect that it will be used primarily to emphasise the vast differences between the legal systems in England and Ireland.

Marra's scholars play a small part in this episode, but are nonetheless pivotal, as always, with their observations. Some intriguing characters from the monastery also come to the fore, and I hope that they too will be further developed in future novels. Marra's housekeeper/guardian/friend, assumes a strong role, and it's wonderful to see Marra being cosseted - something which she will need in progressively larger amounts, if the cliff-hanger of a conclusion is to unfold in the next instalment!

In conclusion, Cora Harrison has once more excelled in this latest work, and I hope that it will win her an increasingly loyal fan base. It would be well worth reading the novels in sequence, but they could be read as stand alones, as the author takes great care to explain the relevant nuances, so that any new reader can pick up the series at a point at which interests them. It goes without saying, that I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment!

I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Of the earlier books in the series we particulary enjoyed The Sting of Justice.

Buy Writ in Stone (Burren Mysteries) by Cora Harrison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Writ in Stone (Burren Mysteries) by Cora Harrison at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Writ in Stone (Burren Mysteries) by Cora Harrison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Writ in Stone (Burren Mysteries) by Cora Harrison at Amazon.com.


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