Mystery Monday welcomes Peter Beresford Ellis (aka Peter Tremayne). An authority on the ancient Celts, Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma mysteries take place in seventh-century Ireland are well-grounded in fact. Sister Fidelma is the sister of the King Colgú of Muman, is a dálaigh or advocate of the court. Her husband, Brother Eadulf (listed in the character list at the front as her “companion”), is an outsider still after 7 years, but is also a lawyer. Neither of them is still in “holy orders” although he still maintains the tonsure and both wear the robes of the church.
The king’s guard, returning from a mission of diplomacy, come across a grotesque scene — two men in holy orders and two boatmen — have been butchered, their belongings either burned or stolen, and hardly a clue to who or why such a thing should take place. As they prepare to bury the men, they discover that one is still breathing so they enlist a nearby cleric, Brother Siolán, to care for him. He turns out to be the brother of Eadulf, long presumed dead.
There is much consternation at the palace about an impending deputation from Rome on some secret mission, Egric appears to be much changed, a second cleric is discovered murdered in the palace chapel, and in the midst of this, King Colgú is having difficulties with his steward and his Chief Brehon, the one of whom is pedantic about protocol while the other is extremely defensive about his position and wants to charge Eadulf with murder because he was the one who discovered the body.
When the delegation arrives from Rome, the members are both arrogant and obnoxious, and unwilling to reveal the purpose of their visit. An attempt on the lives of Fidelma and Eadulf adds more tension to the story, and then Egric disappears. More people are killed before Fidelma is able to get to the bottom of things. It’s a complex plot — there are no witnesses to the murders, and many people are lying.
The characters make a good mix, the layout of the palace and the surrounding area is clearly pictured. It took me a while to get into the story because I find it difficult to read unusual names I don’t know how to pronounce. While I like maps at the beginning of stories, if it’s printed sideways and you’re reading on an ipad, you can’t turn it right-side up; so I went to the Internet to find one. But, once I was into the plot, I really got into it. The action took place in a variety of places, there were lots of surprises, and the characters really brought the 7th century to life. A very enjoyable mystery. * * * *
It’s very easy to participate in my Mystery Monday meme. Just post a review of your latest mystery read on your own site, and then a comment on my post with a link to yours. Simplicity itself! I look forward to learning about more great mysteries to add to my ever-growing list of To Be Read.