Tremayne, Peter - 'The Council of the Cursed'
The beguiling Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf (her husband) are asked to attend the Council of Autun (a religious conference) in Burgundy, France from their home in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland in the year 670 AD. They were there on the invitation of a Bishop, who requested them to act as advisors to the Irish Delegates. However, a few days before they arrived two Bishop delegates got into a heated argument that ended up in a brawl.
During the following night, another delegate was murdered, his skull violently smashed in and the two Bishops that were fighting earlier that day, were discovered in the same room, one unconscious with his head covered in blood, the other heavily asleep and his breath smelling of wine. They were immediately put under suspicion.
One of the other Bishops from Ireland, knowing of the previous superb investigative skills of Sister Fidelma and her companion Brother Eadulf asked them to be involved in the murder investigation. At this time celibacy for all religious orders was becoming more common in Europe but it was not so in Ireland (or Hibernia as it was called then), hence Fidelma and Brother Eadulf had to be given special status at the Council, as here it was enforced and all the nuns were kept separate (under lock and key) from the brothers and other religious representatives.
During their investigation Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf were involved in many scrapes before the whole plot wound up in a very unexpected denouement. All the characters are well rounded and believable and whilst the two lead characters have our sympathy the other characters are a bit eccentric and unusual. The author mixes historical fact, The Council, with the fiction of the murders, to give more authenticity to his tale.
I'm really cross that I have never had the privilege of reading any of this author's books before, particularly as this is the 17th such painstakingly researched full-length mystery involving Sister Fidelma! (There are also two Sister Fidelma short story collections.) The author is very prolific but apparently without any loss in quality, having written nearly 90 novels under this pen name and several others. There is much enthusiasm for his novels in the USA, so much so that there is a Sister Fidelma website, www.sisterfidelma.com giving much background information on Sister Fidelma and of this author and his other books .
Peter Tremayne writes, with very knowledgeable detail about the life and influences of the Celtic world in the seventh century AD and the reader is immediately swept away. What a magnificent read this was and truly the best historical mystery I have EVER read.
Terry Halligan, England