First Sentence: It was Reverend Mother Aquinas who found the body of the dead girl.
On the night of the exclusive Merchant’s Ball, the body of a young woman, dressed in satin and seemingly from the upper class, is found washed up by one of the frequent floods of the River Lee. The Reverend Mother and young Sergeant Cashman believe she has been murdered. Surprised by how little grief her father and brother show, there are other questions that arise causing the nun, policeman, an enlightened physician, and a journalist for Republican Party to join forces in looking for answers.
Reverend Mother is someone one can’t help but like from the very beginning. She is in her 70s, and is someone who has lived a life about which one learns throughout the story. She is sharp, and good at knowing, and managing, people. Her sister, Lucy, is delightful and plays an important role.
The time setting provides a very interesting look at a time of change. This is the first year of a very uneasy independence from English rule. Yet it is also appalling to realize what men, especially those with money and power, could do to wives they no longer wanted—“Yes, it’s easy enough to have someone shut up in an asylum – if you’ve got the money, and got the power. Do you know two out of three inhabitants of the asylum are women and do you know the diagnosis that is down for most of them - hysteria – and what’s hysteria? You tell me that. …I can’t because it isn’t a disease.”
The plot is very well done, with very effective twists. Between the flooding, raids by the Republicans, and the killer, Harrison builds suspense extremely well. One can really appreciate all the information detail Harrison includes in the story. Although the frequent references to the rising water and flooding seem tiresome at times, it is an important part of the sense of place, and an integral element to the story.
“A Shameful Murder” is well-plotted, has excellent characters, a villain one does not expect and a very gratifying ending. It’s nice to see Ms. Harrison branch into a new, potentially very good, series.
A SHAMEFUL MURDER (Hist Mys-Rev. Mother Aquinas-Cork, Island-1923) - VGHarrison, Cora – 1st in series
Severn House – May 2016