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What is the Reverend Mother Mystery series about?
Coming from Irish author and retired headteacher Cora Harrison, the Reverend Mother Mysteries is a historical whodunnit series set in Ireland during the 1920s.
In fact, the first book starts in 1923. Then, the country has been torn apart by the War of Independence and is in the throes of sectarian violence and severe flooding.
In the middle of all of that, Mother Aquinas is thrown into some murder mysteries.
How to read the Reverend Mother Books in Order?
Every book in the Reverend Mother series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- A Shameful Murder – Ireland, 1923. When a body washes up at her convent chapel dressed in evening finery, she immediately suspects foul play. The overstretched police force may be ready to dismiss the case as an accidental drowning, but strangulation marks on the girl’s throat tell a grimmer story. Mother Aquinas wants justice for the girl – and won’t let a murderer slip away unpunished under the cover of war.
- A Shocking Assassination – Ireland. 1924. Reverend Mother Aquinas is buying buttered eggs in the Cork city market at the very moment when the city engineer, James Doyle, is assassinated. Although no one saw the actual killing, a young reporter named Sam O’Mahoney is found standing close to the body, a pistol in his hand, and is arrested and charged. Following a desperate appeal from Sam’s mother, convinced of her son’s innocence, the Reverend Mother investigates.
- Beyond Absolution – Ireland. 1925. Pierced through to the brain, the dead body of the priest was found wedged into the small, dark confessional cubicle. Loved by all, Father Dominic had lent a listening ear to sinners of all kinds: gunmen and policemen; prostitutes and nuns; prosperous businessmen and petty swindlers; tradesmen and thieves. But who knelt behind the metal grid and inserted a deadly weapon into that listening ear?
- A Gruesome Discovery – Ireland. 1925. Like all who seek charitable contributions, Reverend Mother Aquinas is used to being gifted some fairly dubious items. But nothing like this. On opening the evil-smelling trunk, labeled ‘old books’, the Reverend Mother is horrified to discover it contains the dead body of one of Cork’s richest merchants, wrapped in decomposing animal hides.
- Death of a Novice – The Reverend Mother is delighted with her new entrant to the convent. Young Sister Gertrude is well-educated, has worked for an accountant, and has an appealing sense of humor. But one autumn morning, Sister Gertrude is found dead inside a small wooden shed, just beside the river. Surely a young nun could not die from alcohol poisoning?
- Murder at the Queen’s Old Castle – Despite its regal name, the Queen’s Old Castle is nothing but a low-grade department store, housed within the decrepit walls of what was once a medieval castle, built at the harbor entrance to Cork city. On her first visit for fifty years, the Reverend Mother is struck by how little has changed – apart, that is, from the strange smell of gas … But when the store’s owner staggers from his office and topples over the railings to his death, Mother Aquinas is once again drawn into a baffling murder investigation where suspects are all too plentiful.
- Death of a Prominent Citizen – Wealthy widow Charlotte Hendrick had always promised that her riches would be divided equally between her seven closest relatives when she died. Now she has changed her mind and summoned her nearest and dearest, including her cousin, the Reverend Mother, to her substantial home on Bachelor’s Quay to inform them of her decision. As Mrs. Hendrick’s relatives desperately make their case to retain a share of her wealth, riots break out on the quays outside as the flood waters rise …
- Murder in an Orchard Cemetery – 1920s. Cork, Ireland. The Reverend Mother regrets the bishop’s decision to invite the five candidates for the position of Alderman of the City Council to join them for their annual retreat. Constantly accosted by ambitious, would-be politicians hoping to secure the bishop’s backing, she’s finding the week-long sojourn at the convent of the Sisters of Charity anything but peaceful. What she doesn’t expect to encounter however is sudden, violent death.
- Murder in the 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.
- The Deadly Weed – 1920s. Cork, Ireland. Early one morning the Reverend Mother receives news of a deadly fire at the local cigarette factory, a place where she’d been so proud that some of her pupils had been given a steady job. In a city full of poverty, unemployment and political unrest, these ex pupils of hers had surely been blessed with such prospects. Now, though, she is worried . . . What happened at the cigarette factory and why are there rumours circulating that one of her ‘girls’ was responsible?
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