In this the first of the Reverend Mother Mysteries, we are introduced to the unlikely sleuth solving trio of Reverend Mother Aquinas, her friend and physician Dr Scher and her former pupil and member of the newly formed civic guard, Sergeant Cashman.
Set in 1920s during the Irish Civil War, the novel starts with flood waters sweeping down the streets of County Cork, leaving behind sewage and dead bodies. It is on one of these wet and rainy mornings that the Reverend Mother discovers the body of a young woman dressed in an evening gown with her purse containing a dance programme, a large sum of money and a ticket to the midnight ferry to Liverpool. The body is soon identified as that of Angelina Fitzsimon, a respected tea merchant’s daughter, who was about to turn 21 and in a few months was set to inherit a fortune. Although her death is ruled as suicide neither the Reverend Mother nor Sergeant Cashman are convinced of this and so begins the both public and behind the scenes investigations.
The everyday life of the Reverend Mother’s teaching nuns is woven tightly into this historical mystery. With her own privileged background plus fifty years of working amongst Cork’s poorest, the Reverend Mother is in a unique position to move across these social divides. Gleaning access to the content of the police interviews via Sergeant Cashman, combined with the medical knowledge of the somewhat unwilling Doctor, gives the Reverend Mother the ability to solve this complex mystery.
Cora Harrison has crafted a dark and atmospheric Cork with the wealthy living high on the hills looking down on the poorest of Irish citizens in their crowded, damp tenements. However this is not a gloomy, depressing mystery. With a quick witted protagonist in the Reverend Mother, well-crafted supporting characters, a most satisfying plot, this a great read. And with five more mysteries already written in the series there is much to look forward to.
Reviewed by Miss Moneypenny
Catalogue Link: A Shameful Murder