A Secret and Unlawful Killing

A Mystery of Medieval Ireland

Mysteries of Medieval Ireland (Volume 2)

Cora Harrison

Minotaur Books

It is 1509 and, for the people of the Burren in western Ireland, the Michaelmas Fair is a joyous time for trade and celebration, signaling the start of autumn. It’s a chance to gather, buy and sell their wares, and pay tribute to the lord of their clans. But this year is different.  The greedy steward of the MacNamara clan has decided to raise the amount demanded for its tribute, and it’s not long before tempers are running high.

When the steward is found beaten to death in the local churchyard, it falls upon Mara, the Burren’s Brehon Judge, to piece the puzzle together. Was it revenge, greed, or something more sinister that motivated the murder? When another body is discovered and alleged a suicide, Mara is unconvinced. And despite the distraction of a surprising offer of marriage, it is up to her to bring the killer to justice before there can be yet another death.


Read an Excerpt

A Secret and Unlawful Killing
ONECRÍTH GABLACH (RANKS IN SOCIETY)Each kingdom in the land must have its Brehon, or judge. The Brehon has an honour price, lóg n-enech [literally the price of his or her face] of sixteen séts. The Brehon has the power to judge all cases of law-breaking within the kingdom, to allocate fines and to keep the peace. 
AS SOON AS DAWN broke on the morning of Michaelmas, the mist rose over the stony land of the kingdom of the Burren. It clung to the sinuous curves of the swirling limestone terraces on the mountains and filled the valleys


Praise for A Secret and Unlawful Killing

Praise for A Secret and Unlawful Killing:

“In [her] captivating second mystery . . . Harrison depicts the intricacies of Irish law so clearly and marries them to her plot so adroitly that despite their unfamiliarity they are easily understood. Engaging characters . . . add to the pleasure. Mara’s quest to solve the murders and “to restore peace to the people of the Burren” makes for compelling reading.” —Publishers Weekly


“Mara makes several momentous and unpleasant discoveries on her road to a just verdict. [A Secret and Unlawful Killing] features well-drawn characters, a tantalizing mystery and an intriguing look at the surprisingly complex and liberal laws of 1509 Ireland.” —Kirkus Review


“This follow-up to My Lady Judge is a leisurely amble through the countryside of medieval Ireland. Like Peter Tremayne’s clerical sleuth, Sister Fidelma, Mara is no one’s fool.”—Library Journal


“Another well-researched, appealing historical mystery.” —Booklist


“Mara is tolerant and kind with people, but she is also relentless in pursuit of the killer or killers. She is so implacable, in fact, that the book reads like a ‘police procedural.’. . . Like most mystery novels, the facts, or clues, are presented so the reader can solve the mystery. I couldn’t solve it. At the end of the book, I was astonished. A Secret and Unlawful Killing is a gripping mystery that also shows life in Gaelic Ireland. . . . You’ll enjoy this mystery and learn much about our Irish heritage.”—Irish American News


A Secret and Unlawful Killing is a deft weaving of this Medieval tale on the framework of the ancient Irish legal system. Harrison matches the pace of the story to the stride of the horses which are the main means of travel in the rocky hills and valleys of Burren. She guides the reader though the intricacies of Gaelic law and adds an underplayed romance to a nicely plotted mystery.” —I Love a Mystery newsletter


Praise for My Lady Judge:


“Enchanting. . . . The old-fashioned appeal of Harrison’s prose opens up a new world while harkening back to the way writers like Ellis Peters fashioned their historical mysteries.” —Baltimore Sun


“This is something different in the historical mystery line, and it works very well. The Lady Judge is definitely a series to watch.” —The Globe & Mail (Canada)


“A lovely, balanced blend of historical detail and good storytelling. This book is appealing in every way.” —Brenda Rickman Vantrease, author of The Mercy Seller


“Sister Fidelma would be delighted with her sleuthing ‘descendant’—a new female Brehon named Mara. Well researched and written.” —Peter Tremayne, author of the Sister Fidelma Mysteries


“An excellent historical novel with a most original leading character. A true Celtic feast.” —P. C. Doherty, author of The Assassins of Isis

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Cora Harrison

  • Cora Harrison lives in the Burren in the west of Ireland, an area whose landscape and history form the background to a medieval series of which this is the second novel. She has published twenty-five books for children, mainly dealing with Irish history and mythology.

  • Cora Harrison Photo: Pete Mason





    Available Formats and Book Details

    A Secret and Unlawful Killing

    A Mystery of Medieval Ireland

    Mysteries of Medieval Ireland

    Cora Harrison



    Minotaur Books