cover image The Deadly Weed

The Deadly Weed

Cora Harrison. Severn, $30.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4483-0982-5

A fire at a Cork cigarette factory owned by the Reverend Mother Aquinas’s cousin Robert Murphy sparks Harrison’s stellar 10th 1920s Irish mystery featuring the insightful religious sleuth (after 2022’s Murder in the Cathedral). Murphy gave jobs to 10 girls in the school the Reverend Mother oversees, largesse she welcomed as a means for the impoverished children to earn something for their families. The fire’s one fatality is Timothy Dooley, the plant’s manager, who had drunk himself into unconsciousness and died of smoke inhalation. Though there were no obvious signs of arson, a witness claims that one of the girls, Maureen McCarthy, stayed behind after her colleagues had left the factory and started the conflagration. As Insp. Patrick Cashman investigates, he finds Maureen uncooperative and hostile, and learns that Dooley was once accused of rape. That discovery leads him to expand his circle of suspects to include the rape victim’s father. Aided by the Reverend Mother, who rivals Jane Marple in her astute observations of human nature, the inspector narrows in on the truth. A fair-play puzzle matches a vivid evocation of the past. Harrison is writing at the top of her game. Agent: Peter Buckman, Ampersand Agency (U.K.). (Mar.)