Death of A Prominent Citizen by Cora Harrison

‘This is a strange business, isn’t it?’

Ireland, in the 1920s.  Charlotte Hendrick is a wealthy widow, living in a substantial home on Bachelor’s Quay in Cork.  She’s always said that her wealth will be divided equally between her seven closest relatives when she dies.  But she’s changed her mind.  Her relatives, including the Reverend Mother, are summoned to her home.  Mrs Hendrick wants each of her relatives to make a case for why they should be the sole beneficiary of her will.  The person she adjudges the winner will inherit it all.

And so, after an uncomfortable evening during which different family members make their pitch, the guests retire for the night.  In the meantime, there are riots on the quays outside as recent flood waters rise.

The next morning, Charlotte Hendrick is found dead.  Who killed her?    Was her murder connected to the riots on the quay?  And what impact might her murder have on her will?

Inspector Patrick Cashman is called to the scene.  And just after he starts speaking to those in the house, Mrs Hendrick’s solicitor arrives.

Although this is the seventh novel in the Reverend Mother series, it is the first of the series I’ve read.  It can definitely be read as a standalone.  There is no shortage of suspects: there are seven people who stood to benefit from Mrs Hendrick’s estate as well as numerous tenants to whom she was an indifferent slumlord.

Set in post-independent Ireland, this is a tense and engaging story. The contrast between wealth and poverty, heartbreaking but hamstrung efforts to replace slums with new housing.  I didn’t work out who killed Mrs Hendrick until the end.

I’ve read quite a number of Ms Harrison’s novels over the years (piecemeal, from different series as I can lay my hands on them).  I’ve enjoyed each one of them, and this is no exception.  Carefully plotted and well written.

Highly recommended, especially to readers of historical mystery.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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