Absolution by Murder
By Peter Tremayne
Say these names 10 times fast: Tuaim Brecain, Streoneshalh, Eanflaed, Alhflaed, Seaxwulf, and Deusdedit. Can you do it? I think it would be easier to repeat “she sells seashells by the seashore” 10 times. (That one always trips me up.) If you can say the above names with ease, then you must be adept at reading middle English. Good for you! I did figure out that the halh in Streoneshalh means hall. These names figure prominently in Absolution by Murder.
It is the year 664 and the King of Northumbria has called for a synod between the Celtic Church and the Roman Church. They each teach Christianity a little bit differently. The purpose of the synod is to have followers of both sides come to an agreement on the items in question and determine the future of the church. Christianity is new to the Saxons and Angles and an appeal to the experts is made. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop from Rome, as well as Celtic nobility, are present for the synod held at the Abbey of Streoneshalh. Among them is an Irish nun named Fidelma, who has also trained as a legal advocate, is there to help decide on matters of law. Her friend, Abbess Etain, is the main speaker for the Celtic Church.
Sister Etain does not show up to speak and is instead found with her throat slashed in her cubiculum (cell). The council is in an uproar and Sister Fidelma is called upon to use her talents to find the murderer. A helper from the Roman side, Eadulf, is assigned to work with her to solve the murder and restore normalcy to the synod or civil war will erupt.
The writer did a lot of research into the medieval days of the British Isles, and there is a lot to be learned about the time period while the reader is trying to find the culprit along with Sister Fidelma. And for those of us who are descendants of the Anglo-Saxons, don’t be too proud. They were an uneducated and violent lot.
Once I got past the strange names, it was a real pleasure to read. The clues were hidden very well and though I thought I knew the murderer, I had my doubts because of all the conflicting details. I would give this murder mystery 5 of 5 stars. Take a walk on the medieval side and enjoy a good read.