The Chalice of Blood: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland Hardcover – Oct 25 2011
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The clever solution, one of the author's best, enhances a pitch-perfect reproduction of medieval Ireland.
Not only is the history and culture accurately portrayed but as a wonderful writer, Tremayne draws the reader into the world and hearts of the characters.
If you like a good mystery, cleverly plotted and beautifully written, and have not yet discovered Fidelma, a treasure trove awaits.
About the Author
PETER TREMAYNE is a pseudonym of Peter Berresford Ellis, a renowned scholar who has written extensively on the Ancient Celts and the Irish. As Tremayne, he is best known for his stories and novels featuring Fidelma of Cashel. He lives in London.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Abbott Iarnla asked the king to investigate the death of the Brother who recently feared for his life. He was found dead in his locked cell with stab wounds on his body yet his corpse seemed restful rather than frantic. Additionally manuscripts he was working on appear missing. Accompanying Sister Fidelma to the island where the Abbey of Lios Mor is located is her Brother Eadulf, Even before reaching the abbey, someone tries to assassinate the two investigators. At Lios Mor, cooperation is not forthcoming from most of the residents.
This is a great seventh century locked room Mystery of Ancient Ireland. As always the setting comes to life in this strong historical series (see The Dove of Death). While the lead couple struggles with divisive personal issues that enhance the plot as both lose some focus on the mission, it is the brilliant locked cell inquiry that makes Peter Tremayne's The Chalice of Blood an excellent thriller.
The primary theme here is religious intolerance, so antithetical to what Jesus taught. The negative need to destroy anyone who believes opposite your own beliefs. To burn any books which do not conform to your thoughts.
Tremayne makes an excellent point in what he relates about Celsus, the book that is causing such a hurrah in the abbey as Celsus points out that:
"...why should Christians put themselves in such a unique relation to their creator as to make him one of them? And why should God come in men in the form of one nationality and of one distinctive faith?"
"...that it is more reasonable to accept that each nation, each part of the world, has its own gods, its own prophets and messengers"
The separation in effect between Fidelma and Eadulf forces both to reflect upon their own pride and their individual faults and how it affects the other. I'm anxious to know how they decide.
One of the recurring themes that I adore in this series is the Irish culture of the seventh century when the law was fair to all, women enjoyed equality, and the Catholic Church was tolerant. Read a few of the books in this series and you too will wish for those "good old days". At least, if we could have someone like Fidelma around!
Throughout the story and in her summings up in court, Fidelma always raises interesting issues that get me salivating to do research into religious histories and philosophies. One of particular interest is the translation of adelphos thereby raising the question of Jesus' birth and his siblings.
A monk newly returned from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem is much changed in demeanor which excites concern amongst his brothers. Particularly from Brother Lugna, an adherent for Roman rule. Lugna is slowly pushing the abbey to a celibate and Penitential rule much to the consternation of most but Abbot Iarnla has no backing from the lord, er, lady of the land.
Lugna certainly does provide Fidelma the opportunities to put him down as he continually interferes in her investigation. Then there are the many accidents on the building site, the attacks on Eadulf and Fidelma, thefts, murders, burnings, and a hijacking all confuse the issue. But in true Fidelma fashion, she sorts it out and sums it up at the end. It always makes such sense when she brings the facts together but I'll never get ahead of this woman!
Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf have separated in anger. Eadulf wants to retreat to an abbey community with their son while Fidelma wants to stop being a religieuse and devote herself to the law. Colgú is Fidelma's brother and the King of Muman.
Abbot Iarnla has allowed his steward, Brother Lugna, an adherent of the Novatianists, to rule everything in the abbey of Lios Mór; amazing what blackmail will corrupt. Other Brothers include Donnán the librarian; Giolla-na-Naomh, its blacksmith; Máel Eoin the brother in charge of guest rooms; Seachlann, the abbey's physician; Echen the stable keeper; and, the Venerable Bróen.
Lady Eithne of the Déisi is the ruler of the lands on which the abbey lies and her wishes must come first including Brother Lugna. It is her son, Brother Donnchad, who was murdered. Lady Eithne has commissioned the replacement of all the wooden buildings of the abbey with stone hiring Glassán as the master builder, a man with a murky past along with Saor, his assistant. Glassán's apprentice, Gúasach, has some insights.
Those involved in the more secular plots include Cumscrad, chief of the Fir Maige Féne; his son and the assistant librarian in that city, Cunán; Muirgíos, master of the hijacked barge; Eolann who is one of his crew; Brother Temnen, the librarian at Ard Mór; and, Uallachán, the chief of the Uí Liatháin. --I just love all this talk about libraries! And I'm drooling at the thought of those beautifully illuminated books and scrolls...sigh....
The cover is a lovely marbled green with vertical bands of Celtic knotwork bordering the sides. A knotwork border frames an inset picture of a colorful landscape. Stone buildings surrounded by trees on the left with a river flowing inwards and a worked marble slab bordered in more knotwork laden with one closed book and another opened to beautifully illuminated pages and a gold chalice, a scroll rolled up at its base.
The title is what it's all about the cup of knowledge, The Chalice in Blood.
Ireland of the 7th century was a unique place for women. They had almost complete equal rights with men. Women could be highly educated and could hold secular leadership positions.
This is the Ireland in which Fidelma lives. Fidelma is a religieuse, essentially a nun. She is a highly trained lawyer who is famous throughout the kingdom for her ability to solve mysteries. Fidelma is also a princess. Her brother is the king.
Fidelma is a strong willed woman who doesn't mince words. This makes life especially difficult for Eadulf. In the 7th century, clergy was allowed to marry. Fidelma is married to Eadulf, a Saxon monk, and together they have a young son.
Each of Tremayne's novels about Fidelma stand alone as a complete story. Running through all of the novels is the continuing story of Fidelma's relationship with Eadulf. Eadulf plays "Watson" to Fidelma's "Sherlock". By herself, Fidelma can solve most mysteries. Yet, Eadulf often provides an important fact or legal reference which helps Fidelma prove her case.
Fidelma has recently decided to leave the religious life and devote herself completely to practicing the law. Eadulf, on the other hand, would rather enter an abby and lead a quiet life with Fidelma and their son. This disagreement threatens to destroy their marriage.
In this installment of the series, Fidelma and Eadulf are asked to investigate the murder of a young monk. The monk has been found dead in his locked chamber. Even before Fidelma and Eadulf arrive, they are attacked by unknown warriors.
As they investigate, Fidelma and Eadulf uncover a tangled web of clues. Secrets, revenge, heresy, and madness combine to make this case an especially difficult one for Fidelma to solve. In addition, there have been new attacks by the unknown warriors in the area. Soon, the whole region could be thrown into bloody conflict.
Fidelma's high standing in the kingdom, allows her to lead conflicting leaders to a lawful solution. When Fidelma eventually puts all the pieces together, her solution forms an interesting counterpoint to Fidelma's personal issues.
I really enjoy reading about Fidelma. Tremayne does a great job of leaving clues and red herrings. I am often surprised when Fidelma reveals the solution in the courtroom scene in the final few chapters.
I hope Fidelma and Eadulf can find a resolution to their differences in future episodes of the series.
I definitely recommend this enjoyable book!
It is another of a great series that just feels right on a cold snowy evening.
Eadulf agrees, and the estranged pair sets off to the abbey where a monk recently returned from the Holy Land has died from stab wounds with his cell locked from inside and its only key lying beside him. Who killed him, and how was it done? Fidelma and Eadulf, and the warrior Colgu has assigned to travel with them, come under attack while still on the road. Once at the abbey, they find themselves far from welcome. But that only makes Fidelma more determined, of course.
This installment in the long series finds Fidelma and Eadulf at a turning point in their relationship, and therefore in both of their lives. As usual the mystery is convoluted, and the supporting characters interestingly drawn. Also as usual, the time and place - Ireland in its Golden Age, at a time called the Dark Ages for the rest of Europe - drives the plot. The author's knowledge of that time and place do more than anything else to bring the story to life. It's a gloomier read than most Fidelma novels, or at least it seemed so to me. But it's also a page turner.
--Reviewed by Nina M. Osier, author of 2005 science fiction EPPIE winner "Regs"