Shroud for the Archbishop Paperback – Sep 21 1995
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About the Author
Peter Tremayne is the fiction pseudonym of a well-known authority on the ancient Celts, who has utilised his knowledge of the Brehon law system and 7th-Century Irish society to create a new concept in detective fiction.
Top Customer Reviews
Sister Fidelma has a lot to offer as a series detective. For one thing, she's intelligent, determined, and unfailingly just. For history buffs, she opens the door into medieval Europe. This book takes place in seventh-century England, although most of the series takes place in Ireland. For Celtic lovers, Fidelma herself is not only Irish, but an expert in Irish law and customs of the time (the author, Peter Tremayne, is a scholar specializing in medieval Ireland). Fidelma is very vocal about the superiorities of the Celtic Christian Church to the encroaching ways of Rome, creating an interesting thread of tension for those who, unlike Fidelma, know that Rome is going to win that war. For women looking for a role model of liberated womanhood, Fidelma, princess, nun, judge, detective, and, in later books, wife and mother, is superb.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
About the series: May be spoilers! Sorry!
The Sister Fidelma mysteries are set mainly in Ireland during the mid-seventh century AD. Sister Fidelma is not simply a religieuse, a former member of the community of St Brigid of Kildare. She is also a qualified dalaigh, or advocate of the ancient law courts of Ireland. She is also a Princess, Colgù mac Faίlbre Flaind - King of Muman (Munster) being Fidelma's older brother. She solves mysteries with the help of Brother Eadulf, a Saxon from Seaxmund’s Ham, whom she later marries. They have a son, Alchu.
About the author:
Peter Tremayne is a pseudonym for Peter Berresford Ellis, a recognized historian and expert on Celtic Studies. He also is an expert on the early Irish Catholic Church and the laws of ancient Ireland.
Our book begins with Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf being contacted by Bishop Gaius of the Lateran Palace in Rome. Wighard, Archbishop of Canterbury, has been discovered dead in his chambers. Upon examination, it seems that someone has garroted Wighard to death.
Suspicion falls upon a young Irish religieux, Brother Ronan Ragallah. He was actually caught as he fled from Wighard's chambers. However, Ronan denies having anything to do with the murder, claiming he only discovered the body and fled because he was frightened.
Bishop Gelasius, the nomenclator now in charge of running affairs at the Lateran Palace, is convinced the crime is political. According to him Wighard ‘s murder was done because of the triumph of the pro Roman Anglo-Saxon clergy the Synod ow Witby.
Complicating the matter, the goodwill gifts Wighard had brought with him to Rome and the rich chalices entrusted to Wighard for the Holy Father Vitalian's blessing have all been stolen. Obviously, if Ronan had killed Wighard, he certainly had no time to conceal such treasure.
Fearful that mishandling of the murder and accusing Ronan without something to confirm his guilt may cause war between the Irish and the Saxon’s, Bishop Gaius needs Fidelma and Eadulf to investigate the crime and discover the truth. But the matter is far from simple and there will be additional murders before the case is brought to a successful conclusion.
Tremayne again weaves his magic, the layers of religious, political, and personal consequences built up like a cake from the finest pastry chef. This book is a real page turner for aficionados of historical and religious mystery. A solid five stars out of five thriller!
Quoth the Raven…
The writing style is workable, if stilted and at times repetitive, but that does not detract from what this is, a historical traditional mystery, full of history for buffs, and a twisted plot for mystery fans. The author uses third-person limited narration letting us into Fidelma's mind, and at times other characters' minds.
Do not confuse the Sister Fidelma books (25 to date, see list below) with the cute-cozies that are popular today. Fidelma's story is for mystery traditionalists who know more than a bit about Europe's Middle Ages, and are looking for a work of fiction to bring that time to life.
Please read my full and illustrated (with illuminated letters) review at Italophile Book Reviews.
There is lots of heavy-handed lecturing on history: did you know, for instance, that the Romans began their day with a meal called jentaculum but that their main meal was called prandium and was at midday? In the evening, they ate a light meal called cena. This throws Sister Fidelma for a loop, because in the abbeys of Ireland and Northumbria, the evening meal is the main meal of the day. We are not told what it's called in Ancient Gaelic or Saxon. And did you know that a decuria is a company of ten men? Maybe, if you stayed awake during Latin class.
In spite of these and other minor annoyances, II quite enjoyed this book. The hunt for the Archbishop's killer is well orchestrated and the solution is original. Good medieval mystery, if you don't mind wanting to punch a nun every now and then.