Deed of Murder

Written by Cora Harrison
Review by Cindy Vallar

The O’Halloran clan has grown flax and produced linen for years. It is their principal means of support, and Mara, Brehon of the Burren, doesn’t expect any change to the status quo. At the annual auction for the lease, however, a late arrival outbids Cathal O’Halloran. Later, at her infant son’s christening party, she discovers three of her students have disappeared. Eamon, charged with taking the lease to O’Brien of Arra, owner of the flax garden, for his signature, is found dead in the flax garden. Why he departs in the middle of the night is a mystery, as is the location of his body.

Why did he take the long way back from O’Brien’s? What happened to the lease he carried and was it signed? Was he killed to necessitate another auction, or was his death an accident? Did Fachnan, another of the missing students, confront Eamon in a jealous rage? If not, where is he? Mara wants to solve these conundrums, but her regal duties as wife of Irish King Turlough prevent her from unraveling the mysteries confronting her. Then another body turns up. When she finally realizes what happened, will she be in time, or will someone dear to her also die?

This latest in the Brehon of the Burren series set in early 16th-century Ireland unravels at a slower pace than usual but punctuates Mara’s distractedness as she ponders her young son’s future while entertaining her guests. The author’s tendency to repeat information may annoy some readers, and the slow pace may dissuade others from reading the entire book, but those who persevere will be rewarded with an electrifying climax and a surprising solution to the crimes.