Cora Harrison – Irish historical fiction

Cora Harrison’s mystery series are fun, satisfying, Brother-Cadfael-style reads. The Burren Mysteries are set in 16th-century West Ireland, where Mara is an investigating judge in Ireland’s old Brehon law system. The Reverend Mother mysteries are set in the 1920s, against the backdrop of Ireland’s Civil War, with Reverend Mother Aquinas using her knowledge of every level of Cork’s intricate social hierarchy to solve murders. Harrison is great on historical detail and neat plotting.” – New York Times, 9 November 2022

The Deadly Weed by Cora Harrison
The Deadly Weed by Cora Harrison

The Deadly Weed

A Reverend Mother Mystery

By Cora Harrison

Harrison’s stellar 10th 1920s Irish mystery featuring the insightful religious sleuth… Harrison is writing at the top of her game.

Publishers Weekly

1920s. Cork, Ireland. Early one morning the Reverend Mother receives news of a deadly fire at the local cigarette factory, a place where she’d been so proud that some of her pupils had been given a steady job. In a city full of poverty, unemployment and political unrest, these ex pupils of hers had surely been blessed with such prospects. Now, though, she is worried . . . What happened at the cigarette factory and why are there rumours circulating that one of her ‘girls’ was responsible?

Inspector Patrick Cashman is under pressure to quickly find the cause of the fire – and identify a suspect – to placate the visiting Lord Mayor and Commissioner and secure his hopes of promotion. Patrick turns to his friend, the journalist and law student Eileen MacSweeney, for help, along with the ever insightful and calm Reverend Mother. From the fog-ridden streets of the slums to the green pastures and prosperity of nearby Youghal, together they begin to unravel a seedy history of greed, ambition and a desire for power.

Reverend Mother Series

Murder in the Cathedral
Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral

A Reverend Mother Mystery

By Cora Harrison

Harrison’s outstanding ninth whodunit… Harrison does a masterly job. This series ranks near the top among mysteries with a religious lead.

Publishers Weekly

Plenty of suspects dramatizing Ireland’s religious differences provide an excellent character-driven mystery.

Kirkus Reviews

“Set in the late 1920s, Harrison’s outstanding ninth whodunit featuring the Reverend Mother Aquinas (after 2021’s Murder in an Orchard Cemetery) opens with an unexpected visit from Dr. Thompson, the bishop of Cork’s Anglican Church of Ireland.

“Thompson reports that one of the Reverend Mother’s pupils, seven-year-old Enda O’Sullivan, has died. Someone poisoned the communion wine at the Protestant cathedral with cyanide, killing its archdeacon, Dr. Hearn.

“According to the bishop, the Reverend Mother’s ally on the force, Insp. Patrick Cashman, believes that the murderer bribed Enda to put the cyanide in the archdeacon’s cup by giving the boy some chocolates injected with the poison to cover up his crime.

“Given Hearn’s wide unpopularity, the Reverend Mother and the inspector have plenty of suspects to consider in their probe.

“Harrison does a masterly job combining plot and characterization and resolves the puzzle satisfactorily, but the book’s real strength is her heartfelt evocation of the lives of Cork’s impoverished citizens and the Reverend Mother’s dedication to helping them.

“This series ranks near the top among mysteries with a religious lead.”

Publishers Weekly

Spring of Hope by Cora Harrison

Spring of Hope

A Gaslight Mystery

By Cora Harrison

Victorian whodunits don’t get much better than this.

Publishers Weekly

A period mystery bolstered by an exciting mix of imagination and historical truth

Kirkus Reviews

“Cleverly plotted, deftly written, with vivid characters, rich period ambience, and gentle humor… sure to please fans of historical mysteries.


“The prologue of Harrison’s superior fourth Gaslight mystery teaming novelists Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens (after 2021’s Summer of Secrets), a melancholy letter written by Collins on his deathbed in 1889, sets the stage for flashbacks to 1859.

“In the wake of the Great Stink of 1858, during which an overwhelmed London sewer system combined with a heat wave to create a persistent foul odour in the metropolis, civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette, a friend of Dickens, is tasked with addressing the problem.

“But murder interferes, as Collins relates in his letter. During an exhibition of Bazalgette’s proposed solution at a gathering attended by notables who include MP Benjamin Disraeli, a man, unidentified in the prologue, is killed in an explosion that sends metal fragments flying.

“Collins and Dickens, present at the gathering, come to believe the death was no accident and partner up to seek a murderer. Amid clever plot twists, Harrison maintains suspense as the action builds up to the fatal explosion, leaving readers in suspense as to who is killed and why. Collins and Dickens subsequently investigate.

“Victorian whodunits don’t get much better than this.

Publishers Weekly

Murder In An Orchard Cemetery

A Reverend Mother Mystery

By Cora Harrison

In Harrison’s excellent eighth novel…The pacing, clueing, and characterizations are all top-notch. Father Brown fans will be in heaven.”

Publishers Weekly

“a treat for Irish history buffs who follow the series

Library Journal

“In Harrison’s excellent eighth novel set in 1920s Cork, Ireland (after 2020’s Death of a Prominent Citizen), the Reverend Mother Aquinas normally looks forward to the annual weeklong spiritual retreat for the religious superiors of all the Cork schools as a welcome break from her busy routine because of the restriction of absolute silence.

“But this year, with a mayoral election looming, the bishop has decided to invite all five candidates to attend, including a shoe manufacturer and a female solicitor with IRA links, and to allow people to talk about the many vital issues facing the still young Irish republic.

“At the retreat, the Reverend Mother is downcast by indications that the vote appears susceptible to being ‘stage-managed by violence on one side and corruption upon the other.’

“The gathering turns deadly after a bomb set in a cemetery located on the retreat site detonates, killing one of the mayoral hopefuls. Though the police suspect the IRA, the Reverend Mother, a plausible and accomplished sleuth, digs deeper.

“The pacing, clueing, and characterizations are all top-notch. Father Brown fans will be in heaven.”

Publishers Weekly

Summer of Secrets by Cora Harrison

Summer of Secrets

A Gaslight Mystery #3

By Cora Harrison

“An inspired premise and compelling characters make the third in this series the best to date” – Kirkus Reviews

“Harrison continues the Victorian adventures of unlikely sleuths Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

“The more celebrated Dickens has taken Collins under his wing and procured an invitation for him to a house party at the estate of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose literary work leaves Collins cold.

“The staid party is shaken up when Lady Rosina Bulwer-Lytton arrives after a long separation, part of which she’s spent in one of those posh lunatic asylums where unhappy men hide their troublesome wives.

“Collins finds Rosina charming and takes her part against Bulwer-Lytton and his loathsome secretary, Tom Maguire, whom Rosina easily bests when he tries to get rid of her. Meanwhile, Dickens’ son Charley has fallen for Nelly, the lovely young actress who’s been hired along with her mother, the well-known actress Frances Jarman, to help stage one of Bulwer-Lytton’s plays, with guests playing the other parts. Taking Bulwer-Lytton’s place at the dress rehearsal, Maguire is shot dead.

“Was he the intended victim, or was it a case of mistaken identity? Dickens and an estate dog he befriended saved Nelly from an attempted rape by Maguire that gives Nelly one motive and Rosina another. Resolved to protect them both for different reasons, Dickens and Collins cleverly misdirect the police as they seek a satisfactory solution.

“An inspired premise and compelling characters make the third in this series the best to date.” – Kirkus reviews

Death of a Prominent Citizen

A Reverend Mother Mystery

By Cora Harrison

A classic golden-age mystery whose shocking solution will appeal to fans of Christie and Sayers.”

Money is the root of all evil, according to the Reverend Mother – but is it the motive for her cousin’s murder?

“Wealthy widow Charlotte Hendrick had always promised that her riches would be divided equally between her seven closest relatives when she died. Now she has changed her mind and summoned her nearest and dearest, including her cousin, the Reverend Mother, to her substantial home on Bachelor’s Quay to inform them of her decision. As Mrs Hendrick’s relatives desperately make their case to retain a share of her wealth, riots break out on the quays outside as the flood waters rise …

“The following morning, a body is discovered in the master bedroom, its throat cut. Could there be a connection to the riots of the night before – or does the killer lie closer to home? In her efforts to uncover the truth, the Reverend Mother unearths a tale of greed, cruelty, forbidden passion … and cold-blooded malice.”

  • Review by KIRKUS REVIEWS

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Winter of Despair

A Gaslight Mystery #2

By Cora Harrison

Published September 30, 2019

Wilkie Collins must prove his brother is innocent of murder in the second of the compelling new Gaslight mystery series.

November, 1853. Inspector Field has summoned his friends Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to examine a body found in an attic studio, its throat cut. Around the body lie the lacerated fragments of canvas of a painting titled A Winter of Despair.

On closer examination, Wilkie realizes he recognizes the victim, for he had been due to dine with him that very evening. The dead man is Edwin Milton-Hayes, one of Wilkie’s brother Charley’s artist friends. But what is the significance of the strange series of faceless paintings Milton-Hayes had been worked on when he died? And why is Charley acting so strangely?

With his own brother under suspicion of murder, Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens set out to uncover the truth. What secrets lie among the close-knit group of Pre-Raphaelite painters who were the dead man’s friends? And who is the killer in their midst?

Gaslight Mystery series

Season of Darkness By Cora Harrison

Season of Darkness

A Gaslight Mystery

By Cora Harrison

Published July 1st 2019 by Severn House Publishers ISBN 9780727888761; e-book 9781448302154

Introducing Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins as an unusual detective duo in the first of a brand-new Victorian mystery series.

When Inspector Field shows his friend Charles Dickens the body of a young woman dragged from the River Thames, he cannot have foreseen that the famous author would immediately recognize the victim as Isabella Gordon, a housemaid he had tried to help through his charity. Nor that Dickens and his fellow writer Wilkie Collins would determine to find out who killed her.

Who was Isabella blackmailing, and why? Led on by fragments of a journal discovered by Isabella’s friend Sesina, the two men track the murdered girl’s journeys from Greenwich to Snow Hill, from Smithfield Market to St Bartholomews, and put their wits to work on uncovering her past.

But what does Sesina know that she’s choosing not to tell them? And is she doomed to follow in the footsteps of the unfortunate Isabella …?