Although Europe was becoming more universally Christian, there were conflicts between Rome and other factions. Abbess Hilda and King Oswy requested Sister Fidelmas assistance to discover the murderer. The King also imposed the condition that Sister Fidelma work together with Brother Eadulf of the Saxons. Schools and universities thrived as Ireland was the center of knowledge and students from all over Europe, including royalty and through to the highest ranks of other scholars went there to become educated. As Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf continue to investigate the murder the synod limps along - loudly and with passionate outbursts on both sides. Many Angles, Saxons, and other factions of people at the time were completely ignorant.
There's much to love and loathe in this first installment of the Sister Fidelma series of historical mysteries. First and foremost, I learned that Tremayne, as a scholar of all things Irish, loves ancient Irish culture and Celtic Christianity, and finds Angles, Saxons, and Roman theology lacking. On a more positive note, Absolution by Murder reminds me that, more often than not, debates over church dogma and doctrine come down to power grabs. Though I enjoyed much about Tremayne's handling of these theological and philosophical debates, I found myself wanting a deeper discussion. What can I say, I love Sister Fidelma, and appreciate Tremayne's creating such a strong heroine. And though I give Tremayne a hard time about his fanboy treatment of Celtic Christianity, I love the tradition as well. Absolution by Murder left me wanting to know more about the characters, relationships, and what life would have been like for the religious of that time and place.
As well as thoroughly enjoying the stories I am almost in awe of the Irish system of law in that historical period.
Plus, this might be the edition I'm reading, but the dialogue set-up somehow makes it very hard to tell who's speaking. Well, got to the end...and while the denouement was reasonably good...just not convinced it was worth the work it took to get there.
His history books are better, and he is clearly more comfortable with that genre since he was simply unable to refrain from adding in somewhat irrelevant historical facts to this book. I think he also needs a better editor.
Great setting, and a time and place I knew next to nothing about. For this period we need the sounds and smells of the place.
When Abbess Etain is found murdered before she can speak for the Celtic church the tensions rise to an almost unbearable level and King Oswy turns to Irish lawyer Sister Fidelma and Saxon Brother Eadulf to find the murderer before the gathering dissolves into a war.
An historian by training, Tremayne gives a lot of background about people from various backgrounds (Irish, Saxon, Franks, Picts, Romans) and various religious orders and various political alliances in order to set the stage. I believe that his subsequent novels will be easier to read now that I have a toe hold.
Not only is the mystery well-written, (although I had my suspicions all along!), I learned even more about the Christian church in ancient Ireland and the politics and life in Britain as well.
Peter Berresford Ellis (born 10 March 1943) is a historian, literary biographer, and novelist who has published over 90 books to date either under his own name or his pseudonyms Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan.