The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne (pseudonym of historian Peter Berresford Ellis), is an exceptional historical mystery. It is set during the seventh century in Autun (an ancient French city founded by Augustus Caesar). Leodegar, Bishop of Autun, called a council to fulfill Pope Vitalian's request to determine which rules and rites should prevail in the Western European churches.
Before the council can convene, one of the key officials attending the meeting is murdered. The host Bishop decrees that Sister Fidelma investigate the crime so that the council can proceed in peace. Fidelma and Eadulf agree to investigate, on condition they can be seen as neutral and have the Bishop's full authority.
The case is complicated and the plot full of suspense, intrigue, and numerous plot shifts. Each plot shift contributes layers of additional suspense. Fidelma and Eadulf face multiple barriers, reluctance, and even death threats.
About a year before the Council, Leodegar, the host Bishop, decreed that male clerics be celibate, and if already married, they must give up the family, and divorce their wife, or leave "religious life". Many men, especially those without a "civilian skill" are essentially forced to deny their family. The Bishop then cancels the marriage. What did they do with the wives and children? The answer, although historically accurate, is not pleasant.
The Council of the Cursed is an excellent mystery. The major characters are well drawn, the plot is believable, and the intrigue impressive. The final conclusion is realistic and understandable. I highly recommend this novel.