Praise for Cora Harrison’s previous Reverend Mother Mystery A Shocking Assassination “Well-drawn characters, including a lead capable of sustaining a long series, complement the clever plot” ***Publishers Weekly
In the third of Cora Harrison’s compelling new Irish historical mystery series, Reverend Mother Aquinas must discover who murdered a much-loved priest.
It’s Ireland, 1925. Pierced through to the brain, Father Dominic’s dead body is found wedged into the small, dark confessional cubicle. Loved by all, he 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?
‘Would it have been anything to do with those republicans, with the IRA,’ he said breaking the silence.
She thought about this, not so much because she considered that there was any truth in that idea, but more to give the question due consideration.
‘No, I don’t think so,’ she said after a moment. ‘I think he was revered by the Republicans. Do you remember how he visited the men on hunger strike in the gaol, despite what the bishop said? And set up a first aid centre in the Father Matthew Hall to deal with wounds? He said someone had to look after these men as they did not dare go to the hospitals in case they would be handed over to the RIC – no, the Republicans would be the last people to injure Dominic.’
He nodded sadly and stared stonily ahead. She was half-sorry not to have discussed the question more; not to have encouraged him to talk.
‘Was there anything worrying him, do you think?’ She tried this question and was glad to see that he immediately turned back towards her.
‘Do you know; it’s funny that you said that? He came to me on Tuesday, not yesterday, the day before . . .’ He seemed to be thinking hard, and so she did not say anything, just waited quietly. After a few seconds, he gave a heavy sigh.
‘I suppose that there is no harm in saying this, because I am giving no details, just as he gave me no details, but he said, talking to me as his prior, not as his brother, he said that he was worried about something told to him under the shield of confession. He said that a man had confessed to him that he had been involved in some sinful crimes and that further crimes were planned by . . . by the gang, he said and Dom wondered whether without betraying the penitent . . . he was asking me whether he could take action to prevent such a crime. He would not betray anyone – that was what he said, but he could prevent robbery and perhaps a death.’
The Reverend Mother kept her silence for a long minute, but Prior Lawrence did not appear to have anything else to say.
‘What did you say to him?’ she said eventually. He was staring at the altar, his face white and strained.
‘I said that I would have to think about it,’ he said and there was a note of bitterness, of self-hatred, perhaps, in his voice.
She reflected upon this. The seal of confession was a serious matter and she had often thanked God that this burden was not placed upon the shoulders of nuns.
‘I wouldn’t be sure what to say, either.’ She hoped that her voice held a matter-of-fact note. Lawrence needed comforting. He had been a deeply sensitive and almost morbid boy, lacking the happy assurance of his younger brother. She guessed that he would suffer over his apparent refusal to give advice to Dominic. So Dominic held a dangerous secret. Could this be connected with that strange death? Murder it must be; Dr Scher was a clever man. He had looked at the body, seen enough to have the strongest of suspicions and had immediately requested the presence of the police.
‘You can’t blame yourself in any way,’ she said as decisively as she could manage. ‘I’m sure he would have been happy to wait for your decision.’ Even as she said those words, she wondered whether they were true. Dominic was a man at peace with himself and did what he felt was right. He thought it right to minister to the wounded and to the dying whatever their politics and he went ahead and did it, without asking permission of anyone, not even of the prior at that time. The interdict of the bishop had meant nothing to Dominic. He had done what he felt was right to do.
BEYOND ABSOLUTION was published in the UK in April, and is also now available in the USA. For further information about Cora Harrison and her work, please visit our website here.