Scales of Retribution

Cora Harrison. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-6996-8

The threat of Henry VIII's English army looms over Ireland in Harrison's outstanding sixth historical featuring Mara, "the Brehon" (or judge) for her community of the Burren in the west of Ireland (after 2010's Eye of the Law). With her royal husband, King Turlough Donn, away battling the earl of Kildare in Limerick, Mara survives a difficult pregnancy to deliver a premature but healthy boy. While Mara is still recovering from her ordeal, the unpopular local physician, Malachy, whose estranged 14-year-old daughter, Nuala, assisted in the birth of Mara's son, dies of poisoning. The arrival of a young legal scholar who could handle the inquiry into Malachy's death gives Mara the chance to step back and regain her strength, but she has misgivings about entrusting the peace of her people to a stranger. Few will anticipate the solution. Harrison combines meticulous period detail with a crafty puzzle and a sage, empathetic sleuth. (June)