First Sentence: The body of the man in the boat with no oars had been washed up on to the orange sands of the beach of Fanore.
As Brehon of the BurrenFirst Sentence: The body of the man in the boat with no oars had been washed up on to the orange sands of the beach of Fanore.
As Brehon of the Burren and the one who dispenses justice, Mara knows of the punishment for kin-murder, but never seen someone who has been set to sea in a boat without either sail or oars. Now just such a boat had turned up. No one in the small fishing community admits to knowing who the victim is, but Mara, with the help of her law students, doesn’t believe them, or that he washed ashore from another location.
Each chapter heading introduces readers to an element of Brehon Law. It is not only fascinating, but almost makes one long for such a practical system. Additionally, within the story, it is interesting how Mara considers that a change is needed to the Brehon laws in order to reflect the changing times.
Harrison paints wonderfully descriptive pictures giving us a strong sense of place. She is also very good at using weather and, in this case, the sea, as an additional character in the story. There is also a very good reminder as to how brief is life and how “Their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord.” However, don’t mistake this for a book with a religious subtext, but more one of the cost of man’s greed. Still, she does make reference of the shift from the old faith to the “new,” “The priests were trying to call the first of February St. Brigid’s Day, but on the Burren it was still known as Imbolc and was one of the four great festivals in the Celtic calendar.
Harrison’s style does become a bit repetitive in the details giving one the feeling she believes she is afraid readers might forget something previously told to them. There is also an issue of flow and pacing as the story seems rather to meander along until the final quarter of the story when it becomes exciting and intense. It would be nice where there a bit more consistency throughout.
“Condemned to Death” contains very vivid characters and a lesson in humility and priorities brought to bear in a devastating climax.
CONDEMNED TO DEATH (Hist Mys-Mara-Ireland-16th Century) – Good Harrison, Cora – 12th book in series Severn House / First World Publication – Feb 2015 ...more
First Sentence: There was a light frost over the landscape when Mara, Brehon of the Burren, set out from that kingdom to spend the Christmas of 1519 aFirst Sentence: There was a light frost over the landscape when Mara, Brehon of the Burren, set out from that kingdom to spend the Christmas of 1519 at the King’s court.
The Christmas celebration and 20th anniversary of King Turlough Donn’s reign over the three kingdoms of Thomond, Corcomroe and Burran are interrupted by the murder of The Brehon of Turlough. Mara, the King’s wife and overseer of the law, must determine the murderer. An attack on the castle, sabotage on the Turlough’s cannon, and the enemy’s deadly trebuchet and guns may completely overshadow bringing a killer to justice.
A wonderfully descriptive opening provides a very picturesque sense of place while also informing us of Mara and her backstory. It’s wonderful to have a protagonist who is not only a woman, but one of power and respected by men. However, there is nothing strident about the character as her power is based on the actual laws of place and time.
Mara is an interesting, fully-developed character about whom you come to care. Her relationship with King Turlough is one to be envied. Some of the young people are particularly enjoyable.
Each chapter begins with information what explains Brehon law and society. One fact I found particularly fascinating was that there was a law pertaining to satire…”The law regards satire as a very severe attack on a persona because it strikes and cuts a log n-enech (literally the ‘price of his face’-but meaning the ‘honor price.) Anything that causes a person to lose face, injures that person and recompense has to be paid.” There is nothing better than to be entertained and educated at the same time.
The plot is interesting and includes a good red herring, a dramatic and suspenseful battle scene and a look at the price of battle.
“Verdict of the Court” is well done. It’s a fascinating look at different system of law and society.
VERDICT OF THE COURT (Hist Mys-Mara-Burren (Ireland)-1519) – VG Harrison, Cora Severn House, 2014 ...more
First Sentence: Father Mateo strolled through the narrow yard, hands folded and face cast down in meditation.
Portuguese priest Father Mateo has swornFirst Sentence: Father Mateo strolled through the narrow yard, hands folded and face cast down in meditation.
Portuguese priest Father Mateo has sworn to protect Sayuri, a beautiful tea house entertainer accused of murdering her samurai client. The priest has only two days to prove her innocence or both she, and the priest, will be executed. Master ninja Hiro, translator and protector of Father Mateo, must work to keep them both alive. From the beginning, we learn about the culture, hierarchies and rituals of the time. It was fascinating to learn all the cultural differences and nuances. Spann cleverly uses Hiro as the means for conveying such information. It’s as interesting seeing the Eastern views of Western religion and habits as it is the other way around. That the author provided a glossary of terms was very helpful. A cast of characters would have been equally beneficial.
The characters are fascinating, particularly the kitten. Hopefully, more information on Hiro and his background will be provided as the series progresses.
There were coincidences within the story, which dropped the rating for me. However, I very much appreciated being surprised by the identity of the killer.
“Claws of the Cat” is an interesting, easy, and very enjoyable, read.
CLAWS OF THE CAT (Hist Mys-Hiro-Japan-16th Cent/1564) – 1st of series – Good Spann, Susan – 1st of series Minotaur Press, 2013
First Sentence: The outer door was thrown open with a crash that resounded along the passage, and the floorboards shook with the purposeful marching oFirst Sentence: The outer door was thrown open with a crash that resounded along the passage, and the floorboards shook with the purposeful marching of several pairs of feet.
Philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno has come to Oxford, supposedly to debate on the theories of Copernicus. However, Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I, has sent him to seek out Catholics who seek to assassinate the Queen. He did not expect having to solve a series of murders where the victim has been styled to represent a Catholic martyr.
For some reason, I had in my mind that this book would be slow and the plot would drag. Oh, was I wrong. From the opening paragraph, I was involved and wanted to know more.
Parris writes with wonderful detail; I repeatedly thought that as I read. It was not that the detail distracted me, but it made the story richer. The sense of place detail is often thought of in broad, terms; here it was the small details of a room—I particularly loved the description of the bookbinder’s room—or setting; such as an almanac that contained both the prevalent calendar and the new Georgian calendar mandated by the Church for use in Catholic states, and of people. Then there was the historical detail. This was a time of great turmoil between Rome and Protestant England, where the books you read and/or the people with whom you associated could lead to expulsion from England or death. There are some very insightful statements made about religion and the divisions and hatred it can cause and the effect its power and instillation of fear has on people…”the way it makes men believe they alone are right.”
The protagonist, Giordano Bruno, was a real, historical figure. Normally, I am strongly opposed against using either actual figures or iconic fictional characters created by others, as protagonists. I must confess, I was not familiar with Bruno so, in this case, it didn’t matter to me. However, in doing research on Bruno and in spite of there being references to actual events, the character still felt fictional; a good thing in this instance and he absolutely held his own in the story. The other most interesting character to me was Sophia Underhill, daughter of the rector. She was smart, gutsy and privileged beyond what was normal for women of the time, yet still subject to the prejudices and constraints of the time. She was very well written.
Fortunately, the author did not attempt to write the dialogue in the vernacular of the period. Even though there may have been anachronisms, I did not notice any. I was too busy reading.
Finally, we come to the plot and the overall quality of writing. The former I enjoyed. The story moved right along, there were no significant slow spots; it was certainly suspenseful and gripping. The quality of writing, however, suffered a bit. There were portents and way too many large coincidences, almost to the point where I started counting them.
I very much enjoyed “Heresy,” but don’t know that I would read another book in the series.
Bookholder Nicholas Bracewell and the theatre company of Lord Westfield’s Men decide to leave London in an effFirst Sentence: Enemies surrounded them.
Bookholder Nicholas Bracewell and the theatre company of Lord Westfield’s Men decide to leave London in an effort to avoid the plague, which seem already to have felled one of the troupe’s members. More the plague troubles the troupe. They find their plays have been given to a rival company, who are performing them on the road just ahead. When a young player is kidnapped, Nicholas is determined to learn who is out to sabotage his troupe.
Although I am not as big a fan of Marston’s “Elizabethan Theater” books as I am his “Domesday” books, this was still a very enjoyable read. Nicholas Bracewell is an intriguing character about whom we learn a bit more and who grows as a character with each book. He is the core of reason and sanity in the world-wind of artistic personalities and the vanity of actors. His background of sailing and fighting with Sir Francis Drake make him a strong, credible investigator.
Marston fine eye for history is well portrayed in aspects. From the dialogue, to the vagaries of an actor’s life on the road, a look behind the scenes of Elizabethan theater and the dangers of the political and religious times; Marston doesn’t “pretty-up” the period but helps us understand the challenges of living during that time. At the same time, I appreciate Martson’s humor and the bombastic personalities of some of the characters which enliven and lighten the plot.
This was a short, light, fascinating read that I very much enjoyed and series with which I shall continue.
First Sentence: The churchyard was peaceful in the summer afternoon.
Lawyer Matthew Shardlake has been summoned to Queen Catherine Parr, last wife on HFirst Sentence: The churchyard was peaceful in the summer afternoon.
Lawyer Matthew Shardlake has been summoned to Queen Catherine Parr, last wife on Henry VIII. A former servant of hers has asked for help investigating claims by her son that his former student, Hugh Curtey, has been mistreated by Hugh’s guardian, Sir Nicholas Hobbey. Traveling to Portsmouth with his assistant, Barak, allows Matthew to also investigate the past of Ellen Fettiplace, a young woman committed to Bedlam, but by whom?
Sansome has gifted his readers with yet another wonderful book filled with historical details. The themes of politics, greed, poverty, conscription, injustice to the less powerful and the cost of war caused by those in power on those who have no choice but must live with the consequences have been repeated through time but here are set in the middle 1500s.
One of my pleasures in reading historical mysteries is to learn. The Council of Wards was something with which I was not familiar. Most particularly, however, was learning that, but for the stubborn conviction of one woman, England might never have split from Rome.
I also wish to applaud the UK publisher, Mantle, for a physically beautiful book, from the dust cover and embossed Tudor rose on the hard cover, to the inclusion of color maps, a sewn-in bookmark and, as always, the author notes at the end. In this day of ebooks, such details are greatly appreciated.
I very much enjoy Sansom’s, and thus his character’s, voice. It has a very conversational tone which immediately drew me into the story, along with the lack of prologue. His characters are somewhat atypical in that Matthew is by no means heroic. He is an interesting, appealing character who can be stubborn, intrusive and somewhat naïve in his trust of others. Yet he is also caring and determined in his pursuit of justice. In other words, he is human and fallible. As balance, you have his assistant, Barak, how married and about to be a father. It is nice to see how both characters, individually and in relationship to one another, have grown and developed through the series.
The plot is interesting and well done, but does get bogged down at times. There is so much history; the story itself becomes a bit lost, although certainly never to a point where I was tempted to stop reading. I was torn between feeling it would have been a much tighter, more compelling story had it been trimmed down, yet knowing I’d have learned and understood much less about the world in which the characters lived.
Sansom has taken several story lines and woven them together into a fascinating, very good whole. As ever, I am eagerly looking forward to his next book.
First Sentence: London was the capital city of noise, a vibrant, volatile place, surging with life and clamorous with purpose.
Lord Westfield’s Men, anFirst Sentence: London was the capital city of noise, a vibrant, volatile place, surging with life and clamorous with purpose.
Lord Westfield’s Men, an Elizabethan acting company, is presenting a new play, “The Merry Devils.” Contrary to the stage direction of book-holder, Nicholas Bracewell, a third “devil” appears when the scene only calls for two. Upon the second presentation, Bracewell decides to have there be three devils, but only two appear. The third is found dead under the stage. Threats increase and Nicholas must find who is behind it before anyone else dies.
Marston is one of the best at crafting time and place. He takes us from the workings of the theater, to the streets, to the properties of nobles to Bethlehem Hospital, otherwise known as Bedlam.
This was a time when Christianity and superstition were intertwined and strict Puritanism was on the rise. The cadence and syntax of the dialogue reflect the period while delightful metaphors and humor exemplify the characters.
The cast of characters is interesting and appealing. Marston has provided enough of Bracewell’s background to bring him to life but has, intentionally to us and the other characters, left much in the shade. The members of the company reflect the egos, insecurities and conflicts one would expect without be stereotypes. All the characters have dimension and substance.
I did appreciate the character of Dr. John Mordrake, based on Dr. John Dee, mathematician, scientist, occultist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He seems to be the subject of numerous books these days.
Although there was a very good, twisty plot and a dramatic ending, it did feel overly contrived. However, that did not diminish my enjoyment or my anticipation of Marston’s next Elizabethan Theater book.
First Sentence: In this year of our Lord 1552 I am an old man.
Roger Chapman is 70 years old. As he approaches the last chapter of his life, he decidesFirst Sentence: In this year of our Lord 1552 I am an old man.
Roger Chapman is 70 years old. As he approaches the last chapter of his life, he decides to write the memoirs of his years spent on the road as a peddler and solving mysteries. Young 18-year old Roger has left the Benedictine monastery for the road with London being his objective.
His first investigation is into the disappearance of two separate gentlemen and the second's servant while their bags were left behind. Both men were carrying a good deal of money, but their bodies have never been found. At the same time, the Duke of Gloucester wishes to marry Lady Anne Neville; a marriage opposed by her late husband's brother. Can Roger do a service to the Royal family?
One of the main reasons I enjoy historical mysteries is that combination of learning and the puzzle. Richard of Gloucester was a figure with whom I was not familiar, yet he achieved positions of tremendous power and responsibility by the age of 19. I also had not known about "corpsing," the recovery of bodies from the Thames, their clothing stripped to be sold and the bodies returned to the river.
The most interesting element of the story, however, is the character of Roger. Here we meet him both at the beginning of his years; very young and able to be shocked; and see a bit of him at the end of his years. As long as the later doesn't too much portend the latter, the stories should hold and allow us to see the character develop over time.
Sedley knows her period and know how to bring it alive to her reader. Her descriptions engage your senses; sight, sound and nearly smell. In fact, there are points where the descriptions nearly overpower the plot.
For a first book, the plot is well done although it does rely on some rather large coincidences. I did appreciate when the author allows that coincidences do happen in life. There is some good suspense, at the end, and a satisfying resolution.
I did enjoy this book and look forward to Roger's next adventure.
DEATH AND THE CHAPMAN (Hist Mys-Roger the Chapman- England-Middle Ages/1522) - G+ Sedley, Kate - 1st in series Harper Paperbacks, C1991, US Paperback - ISBN; 0061043192
First Sentence: Death stalked her patiently throughout the whole of her imprisonment.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is dead and the Spanish Armada has been defFirst Sentence: Death stalked her patiently throughout the whole of her imprisonment.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is dead and the Spanish Armada has been defeated. In celebration, Lord Westfield’s Men is preparing to present a new play, “The Loyal Subject.” The company is beset with problems beginning with the death of an actor in a bar brawl. Nicholas Bracewell, the company’s manager and keeper of the books, was present and promised to find his friend’s killer. As other incidents occur, Bracewell suspects much more is at stake.
After a very dramatic opening, Marston moves on to bring the inner working of Elizabethan theater to life. Some elements--the hard work, competitiveness, jealousies, stagecraft and disappointment—haven’t changed through time.
It is interesting to learn about the role of the keeper of the books and to learn how special effects were done. It is the structure of acting companies and the legal and political aspects were very different and make this fascinating.
The sense of time and place are elements I should liked to have been stronger. It was there but not as evocative as it could have been. However, one of the appeals of stories set in London is that many of the locations still exist today. The inclusion of a map would have been nice. The dialogue flowed well and did hint to the period. That did help.
I like Marston’s characters. Even those who play to stereotype are enough developed that they don’t read flat. Bracewell is certainly the most developed of the characters and is very interesting. I learn enough about who he is to have gained my empathy, while knowing there is much more I want to learn.
I felt the plot was very well done with a very good flow to it. It certainly kept my interested to where it was one of those books I read straight through. The climactic scene was very well done, even for my having figured it out. However, there is a very good twist on motive and its revelation leads to one of the truest lines written.
While I enjoyed the Elizabethan theater series by Philip Gooden, judging only by this first book, this may be a better series. The second book awaits me.
First Sentence: The Burren, on the west coast of Ireland, is a land of white stone and dark gree-blue sea, encircled by swirling terraced mountains ofFirst Sentence: The Burren, on the west coast of Ireland, is a land of white stone and dark gree-blue sea, encircled by swirling terraced mountains of gleaming limestone, soft fertile grass and hard rock; tiny jewel-bright flowers and wind-torn asymmetrical trees; great pagan stone monuments and small ruined Christian churches and abbeys.
Mara, responsible for justice in Burren, Ireland, is set to marry King Turlock, ruler of three kingdoms in Northwest Ireland. He announced he would hold a solitary vigil in the abbey church by the tomb of his ancestor at dawn. When Brehon is awakened to an uproar of voices proclaiming the King has been murdered, she knows it is not true as he was with her. The victim is the King’s brother. But who was the intended victim?
I was trying to figure out what about this series appeals to me as much as it does. One answer is the author’s descriptive abilities. Harrison is a very evocative writer, not only of era and location, but of people as well. I can “see” what I’m being told and that adds a real richness to the story. It allows the story to become real in my head.
Another answer is the history. Learning about a time, place and, particularly, a system of law only known to me because of this series, is something I value. It also adds a background layer of suspense as you sense the time coming when English law will outlaw Brehon law in the 1600s. When an author can educate, as well as entertain, they gain my respect.
The characters are very well drawn; I felt their personalities. Mara is a very intelligent, strong and capable woman, holds a position of high authority and respect. She also has a bit of Holmes’ powers of observations and Miss Marple’s ability to appear guileless, who Harrison has very smartly balanced that with Turlock; a king who has been a warrior all his life and tends to react first. While not romantic suspense, by any means, the relationship between Mara and Turlock is nicely done. Surrounding them are multitude of diverse characters and personalities adding layers to the story.
I did appreciate that, in this book, Mara’s law students had a much less substantial role in solving the crime. The story is well plotted providing lots of possible suspects and motives along the way. It also raises the issue of canon law versus secular law.
I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to all those who enjoy historical mysteries.
WRIT IN STONE (Hist Mys-Mara, Brehon of the Burren- Ireland-1509/Middle Ages – VG Harrison, Cora – 4th in series Severn House, 2009, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9780727868121
First Sentence: There is something evocative about the words: the west of Ireland.
Generally, when attending a funeral, there is only one dead body; thFirst Sentence: There is something evocative about the words: the west of Ireland.
Generally, when attending a funeral, there is only one dead body; that of the person being buried. When Mara, the Brehon, or dispenser of justice, for the Burren in Western Ireland, attends the funeral of a local priest, there is a second body. Sorley Skerrett was an outsider, a silversmith and owner of the local silver mine. He was not a popular figure and several people stood to benefit from his early demise.
One of the things I particularly liked about this book, and the whole series, is the historical information. Brehon law dated back before the time when St. Patrick arrived in Ireland and it is a aspect of history about which I didn’t know prior to finding these books.
That law, in itself, provides a small element of tension as this there is always the concern of Brehon law being taken over by English law. The comparisons of the two forms of law are very interesting.
Ms. Harrison’s other great strength is how evocative are her descriptions. At the very opening, where she is describing the west of Ireland, it is very easy to envision the setting. I enjoy her characters, particularly Mara, her dog Bran, and Brigid. It’s fascinating, again, to see the roles possible to women in that time under Brehon law. I also appreciate the logic of her mind balanced by the kindness of her heart.
The plotting is well done. These are not “action” books by any means, or ones of high suspense. They are interesting, well-written, who-dunnit-mysteries, and the next in series is already on my shelves.
THE STING OF JUSTICE (Hist Mys-Mara, Brehon of the Burren, Ireland-1509) – G+ Harrison, Cora – 3rd in series Macmillan, 2009, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781405092272
First Sentence: Steam rose from the marrow-bone pie until the old man’s sharp beak of a nose wrinkled in delight.
Sir Robert Appleton is off to FranceFirst Sentence: Steam rose from the marrow-bone pie until the old man’s sharp beak of a nose wrinkled in delight.
Sir Robert Appleton is off to France on a mission for Queen Elizabeth. A letter he receives, shortly before his trip, tells of the death of John Bexwith, steward of Appleton Manor in Lancashire. As Bexwith was not old and was found dead face down in a marrow-bone pie, Lady Susanna Appleton, who is writing an herbal and knowledgeable of poisons, suspects his death to be unnatural. In spite of tales that a ghost haunts Appleton Manor, Susanna decides to unmask the ghost, find the killer and put the manor to rights.
I’d not read Emerson before. Two things, in particular, stand out with her writing; her characters and her research.
Lady Susanna is delightful. She is smart--highly educated for the time, practical—not given to superstition or fancy, and independent. She is certainly the most developed of the characters, yet the personalities of the other characters come through as well.
Ms. Emerson’s research is apparent. The period is a fascinating one in which there, as Sir Robert puts it “…too many queens…” The offset of Susanna’s activities by Robert’s in France, provides a view of their relationship and of the time. The information on plants and herbs was fascinating but I also didn’t realize that hair jewelry, memorializing the dead, dates back as far as the 16 century.
The story is well plotted with a good balance of suspense. There was, however, a fairly obvious hint as to the killer. What was lacking was a strong sense of time and place.
At times, I felt the story read as much more modern than the setting. This was mainly due to the language being quite modern. However, as the first in a series, I did enjoy it enough that I’m interested in reading the next book.
FACE DOWN IN THE MARROW-BONE PIE (Hist. Mys-Lady Susanna Appleton-England-1559) – G+ Emerson, Kathy Lynn – 1st in series St. Martin’s Press, 1997, US Hardcover – ISBN: 0312151233 ...more
ROMANCE OF THE ROSE (Romance-Elizabethian) - VG Beard, Julie
From Fiction DB: When beautiful, quick-tempered Lady Rosalind Carbery inherits Thornbury MaROMANCE OF THE ROSE (Romance-Elizabethian) - VG Beard, Julie
From Fiction DB: When beautiful, quick-tempered Lady Rosalind Carbery inherits Thornbury Manor, she's determined to rule it alone and remain a virgin like the great Queen Elizabeth I. She longs for freedom and dreams of writing, like her friend William Shakespeare.
But Drake Rothwell has other plans. A dashing privateer who was raised by Rosalind's father, he returns from the high seas to claim Thornbury as his own. Their merry battle takes a turn for the worse when the queen settles their dispute--by taking the house from both of them. Desperate, Drake and Rosalind join forces to lay double claim to the land by marrying-in name only. But soon the Rose of Thornbury realizes the one territory she cannot protect from Drake is her heart!
A battle over a house / Shakespeare - really enjoyed this one....more
REVELATION (Hist. Mys-Matthew Shardlake-England-1500s-Middle-Ages) – Ex Sansom, C.J. – 4th in series Macmillan, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781405092722REVELATION (Hist. Mys-Matthew Shardlake-England-1500s-Middle-Ages) – Ex Sansom, C.J. – 4th in series Macmillan, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781405092722
First Sentence: The high chandeliers in the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn were ablaze with candles, for it was late afternoon when the play began.
Henry VIII has asked to marry Catherine Parr and England is in a time of religious turmoil.
The Dissolution of the monasteries is done but now Henry, and the reformists, are moving back toward Catholic ways, under the King rather than the Pope, at the same time as the rise in Protestantism. An English version of the Bible has been published, but only Churches and the upper class are allowed to read it.
One of lawyer Matthew Shardlake’s closest friends has been murdered and his body publicly displayed. Brought before Archbishop Cramer, Matthew learns this is not the first such killing. A serial killer is using versus in the Book of Revelations to carry out his killings.
Sansom brings Tutor England to life and makes us see what a difficult time it was in which to live. He doesn’t present the romanticized image, but gives us a look at the dangers of the time from social and religious reforms to poverty to mental illness being labeled possession, without ever slowing down the story or being preachy.
The dialogue is, naturally enough, not of the time, but flavored with a sense of the time. I always learn a lot reading Sansom.
Shardlake is a wonderful character who has grown and improved as a character through the series. He is supported by Barak, for whom Matthew tries to do a bit of marriage counseling, and Guy, a Moor, once a monk, now a doctor.
Sansom is an evocative writer and masterful at combining historical detail with a multilayered story, and suspenseful mystery. I am continually impressed by the quality of Sansom’s writing. ...more
A SECRET AND UNLAWFUL KILLING (aka MICHAELMAS TRIBUTE) (Hist. Mys-Mara-Ireland-1500s) - VG Harrison, Cora – 2nd in series Macmillan, 2008, UK Hardcopy –A SECRET AND UNLAWFUL KILLING (aka MICHAELMAS TRIBUTE) (Hist. Mys-Mara-Ireland-1500s) - VG Harrison, Cora – 2nd in series Macmillan, 2008, UK Hardcopy – ISBN: 9781405092258
First Sentence: The kingdom of the Burren was then an isolated place, with the Atlantic Ocean guarding its northern and western coast, and the broad sweep of the River Shannon encircling its eastern and southern sides.
November 1509 brings the Michaelmas Fair to the kingdom of Burren. It is also time for the citizens to pay tribute, in coin or goods, to their clan lords.
When the steward of clan MacNamara, who collects tributes for his lord, is found murdered, Mara, the Brehon responsible for enacting the laws of Burren, calls for the murderer to come forth. When no one does, it is up to her to uncover the killer.
I am fascinated by this series and the idea of Brehon law, which existed in Northwest Ireland until it was displaced by English Law. This is not only a very good mystery, but a look at a different legal system and a time when woman played a significant and valued role.
Mara is wonderfully depicted as a strong, responsible woman, who does make mistakes and is torn by her love life as it is weighed off against the proposal of the King. The secondary characters, the boys in her school and her servants, give dimension to Mara and to the story. Bridget, the cook and housekeeper, is particularly delightful.
The historical and geographic setting is so well written, you feel a part of the time. I am delighted to have found this series and look forward to the next book. ...more
MY LADY JUDGE (Hist. Mys-Mara-Ireland-1509) – VG Harrison, Cora – 1st in series Macmillan, 2007, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781405091909
First Sentence: It waMY LADY JUDGE (Hist. Mys-Mara-Ireland-1509) – VG Harrison, Cora – 1st in series Macmillan, 2007, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781405091909
First Sentence: It was the, as it is now, a land of grey stone.
The people of Burren, Ireland climbed Mullaghmore Mountain to celebrate May Day. After the celebrations, one person doesn’t return. Mara is the Brehon or judge and lawgiver who had been appointed by King Turlough. Mara’s assistant, Colman, has been murdered and Mara must uncover the killer.
Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Brehon law or the fact that, as opposed to English law, it gave women equal right to men in terms of marriage, owning property and having professions. That knowledge, alone, made this worth the reading. But I also found it a good mystery with bit of a romance.
Dialogue is not the author’s greatest strength but was involved enough in the story I could forgive the author that shortcoming. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in this series. ...more
THE ABBOT’S GIBBET (Traditional Mystery-Historical-England-1319) – VG Jecks, Michael – 5th in series Headline, 1998, UK paperback – ISBN: 0747255989 FirsTHE ABBOT’S GIBBET (Traditional Mystery-Historical-England-1319) – VG Jecks, Michael – 5th in series Headline, 1998, UK paperback – ISBN: 0747255989 First Sentence: The sun was almost unbearably hot, the journey distinctly uncomfortable. *** It is 1319 and people have come from all over to attend the Tavistock fair. Sir Baldwin Fernshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace, and Simon Puttock, bailiff of Lydford have come as guests of Abbot Robert Champeaux. When a headless body is found, the Abbott asks Baldwin and Simon to investigate. *** Jecks has become a favorite author of mine and I really liked this book. The sense of time and place is wonderful. The plot is interesting and kept me guessing. There’s good suspense, a hint of romance and even a good chase scene, albeit on horseback. There are great characters that are fully developed to the point where I feel involved in the lives of the main characters and want to keep following their lives. This was another very enjoyable book in a delightful series. ...more
DISSOLUTION (Historical Mystery) – VG C. J. Sansom – 1st book It is 1537; the English Reformation is in full swing; and Lord Thomas Cromwell, King HenryDISSOLUTION (Historical Mystery) – VG C. J. Sansom – 1st book It is 1537; the English Reformation is in full swing; and Lord Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII's vicar-general, is busy shutting down papist institutions. When one of his commissioners is beheaded at a remote Benedictine monastery, Cromwell dispatches a second emissary, hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, to investigate the murder. What Shardlake and his companion, eager young Mark Poer, discover is a quietly bubbling cesspool of corruption, lust and avarice. ***Sansom creates a superb sense of time and place providing incredible detail of daily life in the 16th century, an interesting cast of characters, a decent mystery and an exciting black-and-white movie ending. I particularly liked the character of Shardlake and felt for him when he realizes the cause and a person in whom he believed, isn’t motived by pure purpose, but by self-preservation and greed. For fans of English history, this is a very good historical mystery. ...more
SLEEP OF DEATH (16th Century Mystery) – VG PhillipGooden – 1st of series Carroll & Graf, 2000 – tradepaper During the reign of Elizabeth I, actor NicSLEEP OF DEATH (16th Century Mystery) – VG PhillipGooden – 1st of series Carroll & Graf, 2000 – tradepaper During the reign of Elizabeth I, actor Nick Revill, joins the Chamberlain’s Men, the acting company of Richard Burbage and author William Shakespeare. When he unmasks a thief, he is asked to investigate the death of a young man’s father whose mother then marries his uncle. *** There are scenes of great good humor, early investigative techniques, some suspense—could Shakespeare be the killer?--and wonderful depictions of London during the late 1500’s. One doesn’t need knowledge of Hamlet to enjoy this book. This is a well-plotted, delightful book and the start of a very good series. ...more
DARK FIRE (Amateur Sleuth-Lawyer-England-1500s) - Ex Sansom, C. J. – 2nd in series McMillan, 2004- Hardcover Matthew Shardlake is asked to defend ElizabeDARK FIRE (Amateur Sleuth-Lawyer-England-1500s) - Ex Sansom, C. J. – 2nd in series McMillan, 2004- Hardcover Matthew Shardlake is asked to defend Elizabeth, a girl accused of killing her cousin. However, she is unwilling to speak at all and is facing torture. But Matthew is approached by Thomas Cromwell and offered a 12-day reprieve for Elizabeth in exchange for Matthew locating Dark Fire, also known as Greek Fire, a substance by which King Henry could destroy enemy navies. *** When an author's first book is exceptional, I always worry a bit that their second book will be a disappointment. No worries here. Sansom, again, manages to combine excellent characters, sense of time, place and political intrigue, as well as some good suspense into an excellent book. ...more
TO SHIELD THE QUEEN (Historical Mystery-England-1500s) – G+ Buckley, Fiona – 1st of series Pocket Books, 1978- Paperback Mistress Ursula Blanchard, a newTO SHIELD THE QUEEN (Historical Mystery-England-1500s) – G+ Buckley, Fiona – 1st of series Pocket Books, 1978- Paperback Mistress Ursula Blanchard, a new member to the court of Elizabeth I, has been asked to stay with Robin Dudley's ailing wife Amy. There are rumors that Dudley is trying to kill Amy to clear his way for a possible marriage to Elizabeth I. But when Amy dies of a broken neck and Ursula sends a letter to court with her man John, who is brutally killed, Ursula is determined to find the truth of the events. *** Ursula is a strong, independent woman, but not unrealistically so for her background or position. The mystery is okay, but the characters and depiction of the period kept me involved. Although it dragged a bit at times, Buckley paints a wonderful picture of the life and intrigues of court life. I would read another. ...more
SOVEREIGN (Historical-England-1541) – VG Sansom, C.J. – 3rd in series Macmillan, 2006-Hardcover *** Lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack BarakSOVEREIGN (Historical-England-1541) – VG Sansom, C.J. – 3rd in series Macmillan, 2006-Hardcover *** Lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak are sent to York to ensure the welfare of a prisoner being returned to London for interrogation. Matthew is also to assist with processing legal partitions King Henry VIII during the King’s Progress to York. When local glazier is killed, Matthew and Jack uncover a locked box containing several papers, including a genealogical chart. Before Matthew has a chance to review all the papers, he is attacked and the box taken. Other attacks follow and Matthew must uncover who is behind them and what is the secret that could topple a King’s throne. *** Sansom has a talent of writing both a very good, suspenseful mystery while involving the reader in the life and politics of the time. Rather than portraying a romantic view of historic England, Sansom conveys the harshness of living conditions, the brutality of the justice of the time and the unrest and uncertainty due to Henry’s striving for an heir and causing the religious division of the time. Matthew is a wonderful character with a strong belief in doing what’s right, he’s nicely offset by Barak greater willingness to bend the rules. Matthew is also a very human character who can be stubborn, petty and jealous. Although the dialogue is a bit awkward at times as it is strictly neither period nor modern, only a couple times did I find that distracting. This is a series I read in order, but if you enjoy history brought to life, I highly recommend Sansom. ...more