Sunday, 22 June 2008
Michaelmas Tribute by Cora Harrison
BREHON Mara is back on the case in the sunlit Ireland of the 16th century.
In England, Henry VIII is king, and English fashions are seeping into Clare from those shoneens in Galway. But in the Burren, it’s still emphatically a Gaelic society.
So when Mara investigates two murders in rapid succession, it’s the Brehon laws that are applied, not the English law that will soon wipe out ‘Irish ways and Irish laws’.
The mystery story has its technical problems. There are too many, and too similar, characters, and it’s a bit blurry for the reader to keep them all in focus.
At the centre are the MacNamaras, who are collecting their annual tribute at the Michaelmas fair. But Garrett, the new taoiseach of the MacNamaras, has made an astonishing change.
Instead of gracefully accepting the tribute everyone reckons they should give, he’s demanded a specific amount from each farmer or miller or blacksmith.
The root of the problem seems to be his sexy Galway wife and her interior decorating ambitions, which have to be paid for by his clansmen.
When Garrett’s unpopular steward is found dead after the fair, and the bag of silver he’s collected has been cut from his belt, Mara’s hunt begins. Meanwhile, she’s being courted by the King of Munster, Turlough, whose own son and likely heir is an English lackey.
Suspects for the murder of Ragnall, the steward, and a miller who has left his own inheritance in a state of utter confusion, include Ragnall’s petal-pretty daughter, the son of a neighbouring taoiseach, the miller’s simple son, and a host of others.
Harrison enjoys exploring the difference between Brehon and English law, and the politics of Tudor Ireland.
A cosy read for fans of the series.