A Fatal Inheritance
To say that Clodagh O’Lochlainn wasn’t well-liked is an understatement. After her strangled body is found roped to a stone pillar in the valley of Oughtdara in southwestern Ireland, the list of suspects grows longer by the day. Her husband Aengus, a gentle shepherd, had endured her foul mouth and shameful taunts for a good forty years. A short time earlier, Clodagh had won – maybe by cheating – a legal case against her four male cousins, which gave her the rights to her late father’s lands. Or maybe the Fár Briege had killed her, the ancient stone god himself. To many villagers, this is entirely possible, for belief in the Tuatha Dé still runs strong in the year 1523. Tasked with rooting out the murderer is Mara, Brehon of the kingdom of Burren, the same judge who’d recently awarded the verdict in Clodagh’s favor.
Mara makes for an ideal yet unique detective. She knows everyone, and her forthright manner tolerates no nonsense, but she’s also wise enough to let the pupils in her law school share their opinions. These include her near-adult grandson and her young son, one of whom shows strong aptitude in law, while the other merely goes through the paces. Caring and observant, Mara spends considerable time pondering her family’s future, and that of her friends.
As new leads emerge in this complex mystery, her investigations take her all over the countryside, interviewing both rich and poor. The novel is set almost wholly outdoors, and although late March brings gusts and rain, the land is a vision of stark beauty, with great swaths of rock interspersed with tufts of green, and heavy mists occasionally obscuring the nearby mountains, sky, and ocean. The Irish legal system is fascinating to learn about, too. This is a terrific read for anyone wanting immersion in another time and place.