Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Beyond Absolution by Cora Harrison, a mystery of Ireland in 1923

In the politically roiled Irish city of Cork in 1923, Reverend Mother Aquinas’s latest investigation is tragically personal. An old childhood friend, the elderly Father Dominic of the Capuchin Brothers, has been found murdered in his confessional stall at Holy Trinity Church, pierced through the ear with a sharp, narrow blade. In many historical mysteries, the victims have numerous enemies, but this case is more puzzling: nobody can imagine who’d want to kill such a gentle man.

For the sake of Dominic’s grieving brother, Prior Lawrence, the Reverend Mother wants to discover the truth. She contributes information based on her personal connections and extensive knowledge of Cork’s citizenry while her former pupil, Inspector Patrick Cashman of the Civic Guards, examines the crime from an official standpoint. Strangely, on the day before his death, the unworldly priest had been seen visiting an antique shop on Morrison’s Island, upset about a damaged ceramic hawk for sale there.

Every volume in this exceptional series (Beyond Absolution is the third) adds to readers’ understanding about the geography and political history of Cork, and Ireland itself, during the 1920s. Although the IRA is blamed for most killings, Dominic’s murder doesn’t bear their signature, especially since his kindness extended even to Republican sympathizers. The mystery about the hawk is revealed midway through, but the killer’s identity remains unknown until the end. Looking back afterward, however, it’s clear Harrison had been dropping periodic clues to lead to the correct conclusion.

With their shared childhood and contrasting life experiences, the heroine and her elegant cousin Lucy make a wonderful team. Understandably, the Reverend Mother appears noticeably aged and tired in this entry, which shows how anguish can take a heavy physical toll. Let’s hope she and her partners can rally sufficiently to play roles in future books.

Beyond Absolution was published by Severn House on August 1st. By now it should be clear that I'm a fan of this series, which begins with A Shameful Murder and continues next with A Shocking Assassination. I reviewed the last two for the Historical Novels Review, and the first one for this site. Cora Harrison also writes mysteries set in 16th-century Ireland (the Burren Mysteries) and has recently started a new series about an Irish lawyer in the Tudor court of 1522; the first entry is The Cardinal's Court.


  1. This sounds very good. I am always fascinated with the church setting

  2. The contrast between the sanctity of the church and the worldly issues the characters had to deal with made for interesting reading.

  3. Thanks for this post. Mysteries are my reading bread and butter. And a mystery set in the past is like getting a dollop of jam on top! I am finishing up my own attempt at a mystery and will read this series with a careful eye.

    1. I always enjoy a good mystery, and there are a few series I've been following regularly, including this one. That's great that you're working on a mystery. I'll look forward to hearing more about it later on!