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by Peter Tremayne
St Matin's Minotaur, July 2003
267 pages
ISBN: 0312287801

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf set sail from Ireland to Canterbury to attend the new Archbishop, their ship is caught in a violent storm and Eadulf is injured. Thus, they are forced to remain behind on the west coast of Britain when the ship resumes its voyage. Eadulf, a Saxon, uncomfortable in the land of the Britons, has expressed a desire to be quickly on their way. Fidelma, however, has accepted a commission from the King of Dyfed himself. The King has offered a mystery to be solved. A small abbey in the countryside that had been abandoned by its inhabitants; the food still on the table, the candles burning, but no one there, nor any of the livestock. Everyone had simply vanished. Unable to resist such an assignment, Fidelma convinces Eadulf that they should attempt to solve the mystery. They arrange to travel to the area with a brother from the local abbey, who is going there as a judge in a case of a murdered girl. They arrive in the township of Pen Caer just in time to prevent the accused from being lynched by the locals.

As the pair inspect the deserted abbey, Fidelma and Eadulf are abducted by Clydog, a notorious outlaw. They manage to escape and return to Pen Caer where Fidelma begins to see an association between the murder of the young woman and the deserted abbey. When bodies are found on the beach and rumors of Saxons raiding the shore abound, Eadulf tries to convince Fidelma that they should cut short their investigations. Fidelmaís cool reasoning and sound arguments ultimately win the day.

As in all the Sister Fidelma books, there is a lot of history to go along with the interesting mysterious happenings. The author is a prominent authority on the ancient Celts and he blends the historical details deftly within the telling of the tale. The novels take place in the mid-seventh century and are usually set in Ireland, Fidelmaís homeland. However, this adventure takes place in Dyfed, now modern day Wales. There are many characters to wade through and keep track of, mostly with unpronounceable names. The books include a chart supplied by the author to help with the pronunciations. In spite of the name game, this is an interesting and readable book with a fascinating glimpse of an ancient time. Fidelma and her companion in crime solving never fail to entertain the lovers of historical mystery.

Reviewed by Lorraine Gelly, July 2003

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