In seventh-century Ireland, then the light of reason in a darkening world, Fidelma - a religious advocate of the Brehon courts and sister to the king of Muman - is an increasingly notable figure often called upon for her wisdom, legal knowledge, and devotion to the truth. While journeying with companion Eadulf to visit the new archbishop of Canterbury, their ship is blown badly off course, and the pair find themselves on the coast of modern Wales, in the kingdom of Dyfed.
There, hosted by the king himself, Fidelma is presented with her knottiest problem yet - an entire monastic community from the nearby countryside has disappeared without a trace. While investigating this seeming impossibility, Fidelma and Eadulf are confronted with the apparently unrelated and shocking murder of a local girl - a death marked by more tragedy and consequence than anyone could have imagined.
©2001 Peter Tremayne (P)2014 Audible Inc.
I first have to say how pleased I am to have this series available on audio. It was such an unexpected discovery during the half-price sale - I decided to browse Mysteries, then Historical, and suddenly found Fidelma on audio. Not just one, but nearly the whole series.
I discovered these books about 8 years ago, when a friend and I who were great Dame Frevisse fans (Gail Frazer series of a small order of nuns in 12th-century Britain), ran out of new titles and were looking for a new "medieval mysteries" series. I had read all of Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters), which I loved, and was looking for another comparable group of books. We stumbled on Peter Tremayne's excellent stories of ancient Ireland, and began reading them in order. My friend worked her way all through the books, but I stopped around book 8 and always meant to get back to them. So now I am back to them and have quickly polished off the next three, listening instead of reading. What a treat!
This one has Fidelma and her companion Eadulf unexpectedly in a kingdom of Britons, having been forced from a sea journey originally planned to return to Canterbury for Eadulf's job with the bishop. The historical conflicts and prejudices of the Britons toward almost everyone else (Saxons and Irish in particular, especially Christians) take a large part in this book, and Fidelma has a very hard time asserting her authority in law, even when the local lord has granted her such. Eadulf has the worst of it, though, since as a Saxon he is painted by the locals with the broad brush of being part of murdering Saxon hordes. A dual mystery, Tremayne's wonderful touch with showing the local customs of the day and each area is much in evidence.
I highly recommend this series. Since the first few books are prefaced (in print) by a lengthy (but highly informative) piece about what it was like in 7th-century Ireland, you might want to take a look at a print edition of the first installment: Absolution for Murder, before diving into the audio editions. Tremayne's historical scholarship does not intrude in his books - I find them a fascinating and enjoyable way to learn history - so he does go into some historical detail in the preface. Not reading it might make you miss some subtleties in the stories.
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