Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Peter Tremayne
Signet, June 2002
317 pages
ISBN: 0451206266

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Any historical mystery that begins with a map and a historical note is off to a good start. Peter Tremayne begins his seventh mystery featuring Sister Fidelma, an advocate of the Brehon law courts as well as a religieuse, with a map of Muman and an explanation of seventh-century Irish culture. It is well that he does so, because, without an explanation of the wide range of freedoms medieval Irish women enjoyed, many of his readers might have trouble believing the character of Fidelma. The thirty-year-old lawyer is known throughout Muman (the area of Ireland now called Munster) for her quick wit and skill at investigation. She is accorded extra respect by everyone she meets because her brother, Colgu, was recently chosen as King of Muman.

This installment in Tremayne's series has Fidelma and her faithful sidekick, the Saxon Brother Eadulf, investigating an assassination attempt. Colgu of Muman and Donnenach, prince of a neighboring tribe, were both shot by an archer on the day they met to discuss a treaty of peace between their people. Fidelma realizes that the arrows were made in a nearby community, and she and Eadulf travel there to investigate. When they arrive in the town of Imleach and visit the abbey there, they discover that the relics of the patron saint of Muman have disappeared. Their keeper, Brother Mochta, has also vanished, and Fidelma wonders if the recent events add up to a conspiracy against the kingdom of Muman. With the help of Brother Eadulf, she begins to piece the truth together, mindful that she must return to Muman shortly to present the case in the Brehon law court.

The mystery is very complex, and Fidelma herself is often baffled by the twists and turns the case takes. However, unlike the reader, she has the necessary knowledge of seventh-century Irish politics, which helps her significantly. Tremayne works descriptions of the Irish church and the competing Irish kingdoms into the narrative, and this is helpful, but at times it is difficult to keep all the threads together. The mystery moves along at an uneven pace; sometimes it takes Fidelma and Eadulf much too long to notice something obvious, and other times they deduce information that the reader has no chance of figuring out. The book ends with a courtroom scene, and, although Tremayne does a good job of explaining how a Brehon law court operated, we don't really get to see it in action because Fidelma reveals the truth without questioning a single witness.

The historical setting is the best part of this book; Tremayne, a Celtic scholar, does an excellent job of recreating medieval Irish society. The historical note and the history he works into the story help the reader understand Fidelma's world. Tremayne might consider adding a pronunciation guide in future books, though, to help readers with what are most likely unfamiliar Irish words and names. Fidelma herself is not exactly a sympathetic character; she seems to have a high opinion of her own intelligence and a low opinion of everyone else's. She considers Eadulf, who functions as Watson to her Holmes, incredibly slow at times, although she does acknowledge that he can have a good insight on occasion. Still, I enjoyed the setting enough that I will probably read some of the other books in the series.

Content-Type: image/jpeg; name="0451206266.01._PE_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg" Content-Description: 0451206266.01._PE_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg Content-Disposition: inline; filename="0451206266.01._PE_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg"

Attachment converted: Mac Brain:0451206266.01._PE_SCMZZZZZZZ_.j (JPEG/ogle) (0006F114)

Reviewed by Kathleen Chappell, June 2002

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]