by Cora Harrison
The Reverend Mother’s investigative skills are called into action again when one of her young pupils is found murdered at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
1920s. Cork, Ireland. The Reverend Mother’s Christmas Day festivities are shattered when the protestant bishop of Cork arrives at the convent with terrible news: one of the Reverend Mother’s pupils, the troublesome seven-year-old Edna O’Sullivan, has been found murdered in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. Furthermore, the cathedral’s archdeacon, Dr Hearn, is also dead after succumbing to a suspected heart attack in the middle of a service.
When it is revealed that both Edna and the archdeacon were poisoned, the Reverend Mother is drawn into another puzzling mystery. Was the boy used as part of an elaborate plot to murder the archdeacon? And if so, why was he willing to risk his life to do so? As she investigates, the Reverend Mother makes a series of disturbing and intriguing discoveries. Can she uncover the truth behind these heinous crimes?
Review from Publishers Weekly
“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
Review from Kirkus Reviews
“A Reverend Mother, a police officer, a newspaper reporter, and a Jewish doctor extend their long, successful record of solving crimes in Cork in the 1920s.
“Reverend Mother Aquinas has seen the worst of humanity, and nothing surprises her. But the Christmas double murder of an archdeacon of the Anglican Church of Ireland along with one of her most troublesome and downtrodden students makes her very angry indeed. Bishop Thompson comes himself to inform her that Dr. Scher, the police surgeon, thinks that both 7-year-old Enda O’Sullivan and the archdeacon were poisoned.
“Inspector Patrick Cashman and journalist and law student Eileen MacSwiney, two of the Reverend Mother’s most accomplished and beloved students involved in the case, rely on her wisdom to help solve a horrible crime with political implications. Apparently someone had tricked Enda into climbing into the cathedral, putting poison into a chalice, and then eating poisoned candy.
“Though the mischievous Enda had the voice of an angel, neither he nor his mother was popular in the Catholic community, and the Reverend Mother has to use all her influence to arrange a proper funeral. Patrick quickly learns that the archdeacon was disliked by a great many people for a great many reasons but wonders whether any of them are serious enough to kill for.
“Even in an Ireland free of England, members of the old guard still occupy many of the top positions. As a Catholic, Patrick relies on his Protestant assistant for insight. In the end, Dr. Scher’s knowledge of antique silver gives the Reverend Mother the answer.
“Plenty of suspects dramatizing Ireland’s religious differences provide an excellent character-driven mystery.“
– Kirkus Reviews