Laws of Conflict by Cora Harrison

Here are some comments from www.coraharrison:

The Burren Mysteries

With her superb attention to detail, Cora Harrison brings medieval Ireland into vivid life, being equally skilful at portraying the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Mara is up there with the great fictional detectives.   – Historical Novel Society, Editors’ Choice Titles for August 2009

Ellis Peters and Peter Tremayne fans who have yet to discover Harrison will be overjoyed. – Publishers Weekly starred review

Outstanding both for its attention to detail and historical correctness. Historical mystery fans won’t want to miss this one. – Library journal

Laws in Conflict is the eighth novel in the series of Burren novels. The year is 1512 and the setting in this case is the City of Galway. Mara, Brehon (judge) of the Burren goes to Galway with her law students to see if she can free a former citizen of the Burren who has been caught in Galway and accused of stealing a meat pie. His name is Sheedy and Mara has dealt with him before in the Burren: he is a simple soul who cannot read or write and Mara is convinced he stole the meat pie simply because he was hungry and he had access to it. Laws are different in Galway though and the theft of items over a certain value is punishable by death. King Richard the third granted a charter to Galway giving the mayor all the rights to taxes and the responsibility for maintenance. The mayor is elected and “has power over life and death” and “the power to tax everything that comes into the city.” The present mayor, James Lynch has been in power for 5 years. He is not a trained lawyer. Galway was ruled by “a mixture of English law and Roman law, and both were equally cruel to those who infringed even minor examples of these laws”. Mara tells her friend Ardal O’Lochlainn the chieftain of the most numerous clans of the Burren that she is “thinking of interfering in the affairs of another kingdom, or state” and she will come up against “conflictus Laws in Conflictlegum” or conflicting laws and this is what leads to the journey of Mara and her law students, including one young woman, Fiona, to Galway.

The state of the law during this time period is a most interesting aspect of these books. “In Dublin the law was exactly the same as in England, but traditionally Galway was ruled by Roman law. It was only in the last few years that English law had begun to prevail. Mara was trained in Roman law which is why she is prepared to take on this unusual situation.

The simple case of the theft of a meat pie becomes a small drop in a big bucket rather quickly when the murder of a young Spaniard occurs and the main suspect is the son of the present mayor and the circumstantial evidence does not add up for Mara or her law students.

A compelling look at life in general in early Ireland and also at law schools of the time, trade in busy ports such as Galway and political organizations of kingdoms and cities of the medieval period. Apparently tourists can see Lynch’s Castle  and Blake’s Castle today as well as many of the places in this story including The King’s Head Inn.

If you think Cora Harrison’s series might appeal to you I highly recommend that you start with My Lady Judge. Also that you go visit her website as shown at the top of this review.

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