Title: My Lady Judge, A Mystery of Medieval Ireland
Author: Cora Harrison
ISBN: 9780312368364, St. Martin's Minotaur, 2007
Genre: Historical Mystery, #1 The Burren mystery
Source: Paperback Swap
First Line: It was then, as it is now, a land of grey stone.
Thirty-six-year-old Mara is the Brehon (judge) of the kingdom of the Burren in western Ireland, and also in charge of the law school. When everyone in the area troops up Mullaghmore Mountain to celebrate a feast day, Mara's assistant, Colman, does not return. Two days later his body is found up on the mountain in close proximity to where the celebration occurred. Although Colman has never been popular, Mara has to wonder how he could die so close to revelry... and no one sees a thing. As judge, it is her business to bring the murderer to justice.
Each chapter of My Lady Judge begins with a bit of medieval Irish law, which I found to be very interesting. Sometimes I even found those ancient laws to be better than current ones, such as this judgment concerning someone we would call developmentally disabled today:
"The Court finds that Feirdin MacNamera is to be classified as fer lethcuinn, a half-sane man. This means that he has the protection of the court and the community. Anyone who incites him to commit a crime must himself pay the penalty, anyone who mocks him will be fined five sets, two and a half ounces of silver, or three milch cows. This is the law of the king."
Once Mara discovers the main reason why Colman was so unpopular, she has more suspects than she knows what to do with, so she proceeds to investigate as quickly as she can. Most of Mara's investigative skills could be chalked up to plain old common sense, and although I enjoyed the mystery and the glimpse into another time and place, I didn't appreciate the solution to the murder being told to me at the end of the book. Take me along during the entire process. Don't lock me up in my room until it's over, then sit me down in front of the fire to tell me a story.
Occasionally the bits of Irish law, customs, clothing and language got to be a bit too much, momentarily dragging me out of the story, but I jumped back in with little trouble because I enjoyed the setting and the character of Mara so much. I look forward to reading other books in this series.