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Treachery at Midnight

Reviewed in ‘In Touch’ March 2005

Reviewed by Siobhán UI Bhraoin, Scoil Chualann,

Bóthar Vevay, Bré, Co Chill Mhantáin.

‘I shovelled the earth over him and hid him forever. I carried over a heavy flagstone and I carved these words:

"Here lies Conan, the fierce and the turbulent."’

The device of a prologue is employed to great effect in this book, engaging the reader’s interest immediately.

I finished it in one sitting but its 160 pages would make informative and thought-provoking listening during a week of afternoon reading aloud, bringing history alive in the most natural of forms, the good story.

Not only is the factual historical background to be gleaned from this easily-read, fast-flowing narrative but also issues of a more personal nature are examined as we follow Columba, in the shadow of his foster brother, as he grew in strength and stature to manhood. 

The female interest comes in the guise of Sorcha who befriends him. 

A puppy features, as does a robbery, and a death.

Skirmishing on fair-days, Viking raids, and an escape amid Atlantic storms are vividly recreated.

We even have a bit of romance, thankfully of the un-soppy kind, and a happy ending. 

What more could we want? If you have been discussing monastic Ireland, the Book of Kells, or Celtic life this is the book for your class.

Highly recommended.

Drumshee Chronicles, Treachery at Midnight by Cora Harrison
ISBN: 1842102869
Published by Mentor Books Cost: €6.95 

Suitable age group: 9-12



Treachery at Midnight 

Reviewed in Sunday Tribune 12 December 2004

reviewed by Mary Arrigan

Treachery at Midnight is quite the best of the Drumshee series.

When he’s born, Columba’s parents reject him because of a birthmark which they interpret as the deviles. Claw.

Instead they focus their love on Conan, their foster child.

When the father breaks his natural son’s heart by giving away his puppy, the new owner invites the child to visit as often as he likes.

Thus Columba meets Sorcha who becomes the focal point of his life.

But life takes a cruel turn and the boy’s life changes dramatically.

The well-crafted love story blends the gentleness of 8th century life with its darker side of greed, treachery and violent crime.

There are no blatant goodies and baddies; each character is well rounded and credible.




Drumshee Chronicles: Murder Strikes Again.

Reviewed in Books Ireland December 2004

Ita and fellow students investigate in fifth century Ireland when Cetterick, a cruel and arrogant priest is murdered.

He had enemies – his wife, a slave, a jealous druid, a goldsmith and a farmer.

Good to see this excellent series continuing.





Reviewed in Books Ireland November 2004

Fern Hamilton is gorgeous.

She has gorgeous emerald green eyes and ivory skin, the film crew tell her.

She can’t believe it – she thought she was just pale, skinny and with funny coloured eyes.

She could believe it either when she was chosen instead of her best friend Zara, instead of any of the other girls in Sixth Class, for a small part in a film being shot in the locality.

When it was first announced in class that the film producer was looking for a twelve-year-old girl to take the place of an actress who had fallen sick, everyone thought it would be Zara for sure – or Ann.

Both girls were blonde and beautiful.

All the girls were excited, though – it could be any of them. However, when Fern is chosen and the door into the film world opens; another slams shut behind her.

Zara stops being her friend; Zara becomes pally with Ann and the other girls talking and whispering together, leaving Fern out in the cold. Fern has to wake up to the fact that she never really Zara’s best friend; she was Zara’s puppet.

She did what Zara wanted to do and voiced no opinions of her own.

Her father has cancer and not only that, but his operation coincides with her confirmation day.

Fern has to cope with feelings of grief and rejection erupting at peculiar times but in the process learns the value of real friendships.

Gorgeous is a wonderful book.

Funny, warm and deadly accurate in the complexities of pre-adolescent relationships, it has much to recommend it to girl readers in the 10-12 age groups.





Reviewed by Sarah Bunce aged 12 from County Clare.

I read Gorgeous in around 3 hours.

Gorgeous is an amazing story to read.

This story explores the emotions of growing up. With lifelike characters and a story that could have happened in real life, this book leaves you gasping for breath because you have both cried and laughed so much.

I could not put this book down.

The book revolves around Fern.

Is her life about to change? Is Zara acting strange because of the film? What’s going on between dad and mum? Cora Harrison's new piece is the work of a genius.

I hope you like it.



Famine Secret

Reviewed in School Library Journal, USA

Grade 5-7-A series linked by its setting - Drumshee, an Irish fort dating back to the Iron Age.

Famine Secret

In 1847, the four McMahon children are orphaned by the "black fever" afflicting the population at the onset of the potato blight, and the twin girls and their brothers are forced by the local powers-that-be to enter a workhouse. At first it seems that Fiona's dreams of becoming a writer and teacher are over, and that Deirdre's lacemaking talents will be wasted, but determination prevails, and soon the four are plotting to reclaim their home.

The orphaned heroine of The Secret of Drumshee Castle has no siblings to comfort her. Grace Barry, a member of the aristocracy during Elizabethan times, is heiress to the castle and 4000 acres. At the age of seven, she finds herself suddenly under the custody of an aunt and uncle who see her as an obstacle to seizing the Drumshee property. As years pass, Grace becomes a well-educated, accomplished, but lonely teenager. When her guardians turn murderous, she flees to Queen Elizabeth's court, where surprising consequences result.

The framework of this series is reminiscent of Lucy Boston's classic "Green Knowe" stories (Harcourt), but these books are not derivative. Where Boston's prose is poetic and evocative, Harrison uses simple language that is as spare and straightforward as that of traditional folktales, and the narratives are reinforced by Roche's illustrations in a naive style.


Good choices for students interested in European history.

Starr E. Smith, Marymount University Library, Arlington, VA

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.




Secret Spy from Drumshee 

Reviewed by Heather aged 10 from County Mayo.

Dear Cora,

I think 'Secret Spy' is an excellent book.

I am nearly half way through already and I just got it a day ago! It is so interesting to see how a disabled boy is so determined to see that Daniel O'Connell is safe, despite the fact he cannot walk or talk properly.

Mary-Ann is very well developed too, she's also ambitious to become an actress.

She tries so hard to prove to people that her brother isn't a gormless idiot.

I think the relationship between them is so strong.

Ronan is stubborn but smart.

Mary-Ann knows him so well that she can understand him, not just by his muffled words that she knows so well, but she understands his thoughts.

I think she has a deep personality.

She's a lovely girl, but she's sad at the fact her brother cannot play and talk with her like others would.

But she loves him all the same.

You come up with the smallest idea to put in the story, but that little event makes such a difference to the depth of the characters! 

Bruno the dog for example, he makes the character of Ronan seem so much more alive! 

So far in the seven chapters I've read, there is no criticism I can make!

A Fantastic Book From You Again, Cora, Thanks!



World War II Rescue at Drumshee

Published by Wolfhound Press Ltd., 2001, ISBN 0863278493

Reviewed by Kilmihil Library Children’s Book Club

This book is set in 1940. Brother and sister, Clive and Marjorie live in Kent with their father Bob Chandler. Their mother was killed in a bomb blast the year before. Bob is an RAF pilot and flies a Spitfire. Marjorie lives in constant fear that Bob will be killed and that she and Clive will be orphans. Clive loves the excitement of war and knows all about the different types of aeroplanes that fly over them in Kent.

Bob decides to send Clive and Marjorie to their Irish cousins in Drumshee Co. Clare, to escape the dangers of the war at home. The McMahon’s live on a farm in Kilfenora. Mike and Maggie and their son James live on the farm.

Visiting them for the summer from America is their daughter Bridget and her twins Patsy and Paddy, and also their niece Kitty with her daughter Vivien. Kitty’s son Ed is away in the American merchant navy.

Marjorie and Clive settle in to life in Drumshee and get on well with their cousins. They camp out and have lots of fun. They also have to help out on the farm and Marjorie begins to lose the fears and anxieties that made her so unhappy in England. However, one day a telegram arrives for Kitty to tell her that Ed’s ship has been lost at sea, bombed by a German U-Boat.

Kitty and Vivien are beside themselves with worry. To distract Vivien the children decide to go camping to the Aran Islands. While on Aran they have an amazing adventure. A German U- boat comes ashore for fresh water and they discover that Ed is a prisoner on board.

They come up with a daring plan and rescue their cousin and bring him and his friends back home to Drumshee.

This is one of the Timeline series of books by Cora Harrison. It was a very popular read by the members of the book club. They found it very exciting and liked that the book was set in Clare.

Some said the language used in the book was wonderfully descriptive and they could picture in their minds eye what was happening. They would definitely recommend this book to others to read.

Rating: 10 out of 10.



Drumshee Timeline series

Review in Books Ireland 2000

‘…the Drumshee Timeline series which history teachers should be very grateful for giving readers a sense of the timespan of history while enjoying excellent adventure stories.’ 



Drumshee Timeline series

School Library Journal, USA

‘The Drumshee Timeline Series is a good choice for students interested in history.’ 




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