The Cardinal's Court

The Cardinal's Court
The Cardinal's Court

The Cardinal's Court

More in the Reverend Mother Mystery Series

A Shameful Murder

Click here to read the first chapter of A Shameful Murder.

A Shameful Murder - the first book in the new Reverend Mother Mystery Series by Cora Harrison

Cork, Ireland. 1923.

When, one wet March morning, Reverend Mother Aquinas discovers a body at the gate of the convent chapel washed up after a flood ‘like a mermaid in gleaming silver satin’, she immediately sends for one of her former pupils, Police Sergeant Patrick Cashman, to investigate.

Dead bodies are not unusual in the poverty-stricken slums of Cork city, but this one is dressed in evening finery; in her handbag is a dance programme for the exclusive Merchants’ Ball held the previous evening – and a midnight ticket for the Liverpool ferry.

Against the backdrop of a country in the midst of Ireland’s Civil War, the Reverend Mother, together with Sergeant Cashman and Dr Scher, an enlightened physician and friend, seek out the truth as to the identity of the victim – and her killer.

Booklist says:


Mistaken identities, strange twists, an intelligent and likeable heroine, and a tragic tale of sex, greed and betrayal – make sure that your historical mystery readers get this on their radar.

Click here for more reviews of A Shameful Murder

More in the Burren Mystery series

London Murder Mysteries series

The London Murder Mysteries series





16 June 2011: The Montgomery Murder has been declared winner of the East Sussex children's book of the year award.

1 June 2011: The Montgomery Murder has been declared winner of the Lancashire Fantastic Book Awards from a shortlist of five books.

Click here for the London Murder Mysteries series



Review from Net Galley for A Shameful Murder

Jill Weekes Recommends This Book Strongly:

This is a well written and interesting historical mystery set in Ireland in the 1920s. It is the first in a new series and introduces Mother Aquinas.

Respected by the whole community of Cork she finds that she has the contacts and the personal standing to find out information that the police can't always track down. When the body of a young girl is washed up almost at the convent's gates after a flood Mother Aquinas feels the need to know more.

Fortunately Sergeant Patrick Cashman is investigating the case and he went to school as a child at the convent so she feels able to talk to him about the case.

I liked the background to the story - the huge gaps between rich and poor in the city of Cork as well as the nightly battles between opposing factions in the on-going fight to gain independence for a united Ireland, I thought were sketched in with a light hand, though it could have dominated the story it was placed firmly in the background of everyday life for both rich and poor.

It is the character of Mother Aquinas which dominates the story. She is compassionate, wise and has a great deal of experience of life in spite of her apparent seclusion from the world. If you want to read something different in the way of historical crime fiction then I recommend this book. I thought it was excellent and I shall be looking out for more books featuring Mother Aquinas.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review.

Click here for more reviews of A Shameful Murder

Condemned to Death

Harrison has never been better than in her 12th historical starring Irish investigating magistrate and law school dean Mara (after 2014’s Verdict of the Court).

Under Irish law in the 16th century, murdering a close relative is punished by setting the guilty party out to sea in a boat without oars. When a boat without oars containing the body of an unidentified man drifts onto the shore of the Kingdom of the Burren, the locals assume that the dead man must have been a kin-slayer.

Mara’s oldest scholar, Domhnall, later tells her that he thinks he recognizes the corpse as that of a goldsmith from Galway, a city farther up the Atlantic coast that’s governed by English law, which punishes kin-slayers by hanging. Mara concludes that someone murdered the goldsmith and hoped to disguise the cause of death.

As Mara’s sleuthing leads her to a clever and disturbing solution, Harrison seamlessly integrates law and social history (e.g., Mara notes that the emergence of the merchant profession obligates setting a legal penalty for killing one).

Publishers Weekly review, 19 December 2014

Click here for the Burren Mysteries series

Scales of retribution

The threat of Henry VIII's English army looms over Ireland in Harrison's outstanding sixth historical featuring Mara, "the Brehon" (or judge) for her community of the Burren in the west of Ireland (after 2010's Eye of the Law).

With her royal husband, King Turlough Donn, away battling the earl of Kildare in Limerick, Mara survives a difficult pregnancy to deliver a premature but healthy boy.

While Mara is still recovering from her ordeal, the unpopular local physician, Malachy, whose estranged 14-year-old daughter, Nuala, assisted in the birth of Mara's son, dies of poisoning.

The arrival of a young legal scholar who could handle the inquiry into Malachy's death gives Mara the chance to step back and regain her strength, but she has misgivings about entrusting the peace of her people to a stranger.

Few will anticipate the solution. Harrison combines meticulous period detail with a crafty puzzle and a sage, empathetic sleuth. (June)

Publishers Weekly review May 2011

Click here for the Burren Mysteries series


Jane Austen stole my boyfriend


Release date: 1st April 2011 UK
Genre: Historical fiction
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Summary from Amazon:

Jane wants to meet a hero worthy of her extraordinary imagination: a gentleman who is dashing and daring and handsome and brave; who can dance like a viscount and duel like a king. Jane and Jenny are whiling away the season in Bath and there are plenty of dances, rumours and scandals to entertain them. But a good reputation, once lost, is gone forever; and Jane is in danger of becoming the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons…


Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend is a charming historical tale which tells the story of Jenny Cooper – who was very possibly Jane’s best friend. This novel follows on from the romantic endeavours of I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend. I recommend you read the books in the correct order so that you can fully appreciate the sheer delights of this imagining of Jane’s life. This review has spoilers for the first book. So be warned...

Jenny and Jane are very excited at the beginning of the novel. The handsome and gallant Captain Thomas Williams has proposed marriage and Jenny has accepted. But this would not be a truly romantic story if the tale ended there. A true story of love must involve many obstacles. The hero and the heroine must conquer all the trials in order to be rewarded with love.

Jenny’s brother, Edward-John, is a stuffy and weak-spined man. He is far too influenced by his wife Augusta (what a perfect name for a hideous old witch) and she encourages him to prevent the engagement. As her legal guardian, Edward-John has the final say over who may marry young Jenny. Heartbreak and much sobbing ensue but of course the wonderful Captain Williams does not take no for an answer. Let’s hear a young for the naval hero!

This story is told through Jenny’s journal. Her jotting about entertaining conversations, events and Jane’s stories move the plot along. There are also the letters she exchanges with her beaux. But perhaps this is a little more Jane’s story than Jenny’s. We know that Jenny has found an eligible man who will make his fortune. The same cannot be said of Jane. She, as one might imagine, is a flighty and rather intoxicating girl to be around. Men are mesmerised by her charms and sharp tongue which means Jane becomes the object of many single young ladies’ hatred. Jane lives more inside her fantastical musings about the people around her than actually in her own real life. She doesn’t know the true yearnings of her own heart. So does she steal the object of another young lady’s affection? You’ll have to read the book to find out. In truth this is Jane’s journey to find what love is and not what a young romantic novelist might dream it to be. Heroism and chivalry can come in many guises!

This novel takes place in Bath. I loved Harrison’s description of the Royal Crescent, the Pump House and the luxurious shops. It makes me want to revisit bath and especially the Ball Rooms. This story was full of finely researched details. It lavishly portrays the life of the wealthy and their fine attire. I suddenly desire to have a dress made from scratch. Does anyone else ever feel that we have lost some of the beauty of our cultural heritage when we can just buy factory-made clothes?

Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend is the sort of book that should be read in a huge bubble bath with copious amounts of handmade chocolate. It is sheer indulgence. It sweet and entertaining but it is also compelling. I read it in one sitting. I just had to know how it ended. Romantic, endearing and timeless, this book will be enjoyed by giggly girls for years to come. This is series is now a firm favourite of mine.

Thanks to Macmillan's Children's Books for sending the book to review.

The Bookette, Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Click here for I Was Jane Austin's Best Friend


I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend


San Francisco Book Review

I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

Filed in Featured-Fiction, Young Adult on December 23, 2010

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 342 pages

Young Jane Austen fans are in for an once-in-a-lifetime treat that will sweep them back into the excitement of 1790s British society, fancy skirts, dashing gentlemen, and young love. Cora Harrison’s novel is a delicious combination of historical fact and fabulously crafted fiction based on the relationship between teenage Jane Austen and her cousin Jenny Cooper. I fell in love on page one and could not put this book down.

Jenny risks her life and reputation to escape the boarding school where she and her cousin Jane live in order to get a letter to Jane’s mother. Jane was direly ill and the headmistress refused to contact the family. Jenny happens to meet and fall desperately in love with handsome Captain Thomas Williams along the way. He charms her with his kindness and aids her in getting the letter to her cousin’s family. The Austen family quickly rescues the girls from the school and brings them back to live at Jane’s family estate. When Thomas reappears later in the novel, Jenny fears he will inadvertently ruin her reputation by letting slip how he originally met her. Can true love conquer all or will persnickety relatives get in the way in the name of propriety?

Prepare for a fun and fast-paced adventure as the girls learn about growing up, love, friendship, aspirations, and marriage. This novel is a rare gem in historical fiction and one I would gladly read again.

Reviewed by Jennifer Melville

Stories from my bookshelf  

End of 2010 Survey

1. Best book of 2010
I was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison

Review: Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This book was one of the best I read in 2010.

(Read full review on our  Jane Austin reviews page)


It is 1791, and shy, sensible Jenny Cooper and her bold cousin Jane Austen are in a rather bad way. Jane is very sick with a fever and the cruel and rather unscrupulous headmistress of their girls' boarding school is refusing to contact Jane's parents.

Jenny feels she has no other choice than to venture out in the middle night, alone, to take a letter to the post inn to try to warn her aunt and uncle of Jane’s poor health...

Although written in contemporary prose, this lovely novel captures Jane Austen's times perfectly.

This is a social account of the end of the eighteenth-century England just as much as it is a bit of girly fun.

Coral Harrison most definitely did her homework; the boundaries between fact and fiction are often blurred, as the author was inspired both by real events and characters and episodes in Jane Austen's life (mostly recorded in her correspondence to several people) as well as the imaginary characters and scenes in her novels.

They all come together very well and Cora Harrison manages to touch on subjects that were close to Austen's heart too: the issues around marriage, with true love always competing against finding a match that will bring financial security is central, and girls with an independent mind are pivotal to the story...

This quirky romantic novel is a great introduction to Jane Austen for younger readers and an insight of what life might have been for her, seen through the eyes of her cousin. The fact that it is written in the form of a journal, accentuated by pretty illustrations, makes it effortless to read, and one that I very much enjoyed.


...I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend is a sweet, heart-warming tale of love, friendship and ball gowns. Written in diary form, Jenny Cooper reveals her secrets and desires in a book that fans of Jane Austen novels will enjoy!

I really enjoyed reading this book despite not having read anything by Jane Austen before. It picked up from the first page and I was immediately transported back to 1791 in the streets of Southampton. As I live near Southampton and in Hampshire (where the story is set) it was really interesting to see the contrast between the time periods through Jenny's eyes. I loved the additions to the text as well. There were beautifully drawn illustrations accompanying real prints of short stories that Jane Austen wrote...

Read full review ...


Intrigue aplenty... Teenage Fiction for All Ages review

First Line:

My Journal Monday, 7 February 1791

Jane looks like she could die.

... I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend is a stately paced novel which takes the reader into the eighteenth century with ease and there is intrigue aplenty in the last 50 pages. I found this a quick read and though I thought the romance element a little improbable due to Jenny's youth and naivety it is in fact based on true life events...  I appreciated the illustrations by Susan Hellard which added another level of charm to this book.

Cover: This is an exceptionally pretty cover which caught my attention.

Read full review ...

A charming, heartwarming, emotional and clever read - loved it!

Review by Funky Librarian. All things teen library

... Jenny's is a shy and timid character, quite the opposite to Jane who is very confident and as you would expect, always coming up with entertaining stories and jokes that keep everyone amused.

The book is Jenny's story of the journey from child to young woman, with some heartwarming moments and shocking twists along the way.

Harrison really opens up what it would have been like to be a young woman growing up without a fortune in the 18th Century. The relationships she develops between Jane and her brothers were so realistic and the exchange between them written with humour and warmth.

Where Harrison has filled in the blanks, it is done so cleverly and intuitively. A true Austen fan!

A charming, heartwarming, emotional and clever read - loved it!

Read full review ...


A charming introduction ... UK Sunday Telegraph review

...a sprigged muslin of a novel – light and fluffy but with a good structured underskirt.

It is told in diary form by Jane Austen’s cousin and offers a sideways glimpse into the imagined world of Austen as a teenager.

Along with the balls, dresses, flirtations and biographical details are incidents and characters to be unpicked from the later novels – a light-hearted diversion for those who know their Eltons from their Bennets, and a charming introduction to those who don’t. (Age: 11-14)

Review by Georgia on the Chicklish website

Cora Harrison’s I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend is a gripping book, good for a wide age range. It gives an enthralling insight into 18th century life, with a brilliant storyline to keep you guessing what will happen next. It’s also written in an exciting journal format... - Review by Georgia, aged 13

Read more of this review on our I Was Jane Austin's Best Friend page...

Love reading 4 Kids .co.ukRich in period detail and full of romance and fantasy, this is a delightful imaginary diary of Jenny Cooper which gives entertaining insights into what Jane Austen might have been like as a teenager.

Jenny is the pretty, clever but shy cousin of the young Jane. The girls meet at a horrible boarding school but soon escape to the warmth of Jane's family home where Jenny enjoys with Jane the bustling life of cards and games and gowns and balls and, above all, the delights of finding a hero.

Julia Eccleshare (children's editor of the Guardian) in 'books of the month'


WaterstonesI Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend is a wonderful and original way to introduce younger generations to Jane Austen’s life and work. Even more poignant perhaps is the fact that the foundations of this story are real.

Author Cora Harrison, who specialises in children’s historical fiction, has researched the characters for her book in such a way that it provides invaluable insight into the life of the wild, witty, imaginative young girl Jane Austen was.

We see the young author through the eyes of her shy cousin, Jenny Cooper, who comes to stay for the summer. And that summer will change her life forever, because above all else this book is a romance, and one that echoes those that we will know and love from Jane Austen’s work in the years to come.

Waterstones's Books Quarterly review.


Illustrated with delightful and informative pen and ink images, this is a recreation of the home life of the fifteen-year-old Jane Austen, seen through the fictional diary entries of her cousin Jane (Jenny) Cooper.

The people and places in this account are real, based on what is known of Austen’s adolescence, and Harrison has made good use of her own love of Austen’s novels and characters, imagining them to be fictional accounts of family and friends.

Late eighteenth and twenty-first-century literary styles are well combined, and lively characterisation provides an engaging text which creates a typical Austen short novel around Jenny’s whirlwind romance.

Harrison also addresses the plight of George, Jane’s brother, and attitudes of the time towards learning difficulties and physical disability.

Booktrust, November 2009

Review in French from:

Forum des amoureux de la littérature et de la culture anglaise at


J'aime m'intéresser aux romans dérivés de l'oeuvre de Jane Austen. La production est très riche, on y trouve vraiment de tout. Certains ouvrages ne méritent guère d'attention mais celui-ci m'a plutôt enthousiasmée !


When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip and romance that Jane inhabits. But Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship, and when Jenny falls utterly in love with the dashing Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this most eligible of men?

Ce petit livre est en fait le journal intime de Jenny Cooper, la cousine orpheline de Jane Austen qui a résidé chez sa famille à Steventon. Ce roman se lit donc presque avant tout comme tel. Le lecteur est plongé dans les pensées, souvenirs, troubles et espoirs d'une jeune fille de 16 ans...

Read more of this review on our I Was Jane Austin's Best Friend page...

All reviews...

The London Murder Mystery series

Extract from The London Murder Mystery series

Click here to read an extract from The first in the London Murder Mystery series, The Montgomery Murder

"It was a foggy day in late November. The gas lamps shone like cloudy balls of light and the horses slipped on the wet streets.

"The police must move fast to catch his killer. They need an insider, someone streetwise, cunning, bold . . . someone like Alfie.

"When Inspector Denham makes him an offer he can’t refuse, it’s up to Alfie and his gang to sift clues, shadow suspects and negotiate a sinister world of double-dealing and danger – until the shocking truth is revealed...


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Reviews for the Montgomery Murder

The Montgomery Murder

School Librarian, Autumn 2010

I have often found fiction that 'supports KS2 history topics' to be contrived and often boring.

Here is an exception!

The author is both an experienced primary school teacher and writer of adult fiction.

 Perhaps this is why she writes in a direct and uncompromising way and assumes the reader capable of dealing with what is a gruesome story set in Victorian London where appalling poverty is found side by side with great wealth.

The most reluctant reader will warm to the central character, street wise Alfie Sykes, orphaned and struggling to provide for his blind brother and two cousins, as he’s arrested for stealing bread but given a chance of reprieve by sympathetic Inspector Denham who is eager to use Alfie’s local knowledge to solve the murder of wealthy Mr Montgomery.  

This is a fast-moving story with chapters that invariably end on cliff hangers, suited equally to individual reading or aloud to a group, the author manages to not only set the scene with some wonderful descriptions but also to sneak in some useful historical facts.

The first of a series, The London Murder Mysteries, the next will be eagerly awaited.

School Librarian, Autumn 2010

Mary Arrigan, Saturday, October 23, 2010

"A thoroughly exciting page-turner for age 10 and upwards."

THE Montgomery Murder Mystery by Cora Harrison (Piccadilly; €8.35) is set in the gaslit streets of foggy London in the 1800s.

Alfie, who lives in a cellar with his blind brother Sammy, faithful dog Mutsey and an assortment of ragamuffins, is caught trying to steal bread. However, the farsighted Inspector Denham realises that the boy, with his access to the underbelly of London, could garner information about the death by garrotting the wealthy Mr Montgomery. Thus begins a commitment that puts Alfie and his gang in grave danger, culminating in the abduction of Sammy. A thoroughly exciting page-turner for age 10 and upwards.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, October 23, 2010


"a hugely enjoyable read..."

In the mean streets of Victorian London lies the body of wealthy Mr Montgomery.

The police must move fast to catch his killer. They need an insider, someone streetwise, cunning, bold . . . someone like Alfie.

When Inspector Denham makes him an offer he can’t refuse, it’s up to Alfie and his gang to sift clues, shadow suspects and negotiate a sinister world of double-dealing and danger – until the shocking truth is revealed...

Read reviews...



The Burren Mysteries by Cora Harrison

"The Burren on the western seaboard of Ireland was then, in the year of 1509, as it is now, a land of stony fields and swirling mountain terraces..."

A series of six murder mystery books set in medieval Ireland

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

"This richly conceived and authentically detailed series of historical whodunits..." - Booklist Writ in Stone by Cora Harrison

"... well-drawn characters, a tantalizing mystery and an intriguing look at the surprisingly complex and liberal laws of 1509 Ireland." - Kirkus reviews

"Mara is wonderfully depicted... The historical and geographic setting is so well written you feel a part of the time." - New Mystery Magazine

"You’ll enjoy this mystery and learn much about our Irish heritage." - Irish American News

"Outstanding" - Publishers Weekly

"a wonderfully appealing character alluring perception of Ireland – [Cora Harrison is] exceptionally talented at crafting an intriguing whodunit." - The Truth About

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