Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Headline
Release Date: September 2002
ISBN: 0747271224
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
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Genre: Mystery / Historical Crime (7th century, Saxmundham, Suffolk, England)
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:


The Haunted Abbot
Sister Fidelma Mystery, No. 12
By Peter Tremayne

     Peter Tremayne (aka Peter Berresford Ellis) is an authority on the ancient Celts and in his wonderfully unusual Sister Fidelma stories this deep well of knowledge comes bubbling forth. This is the twelfth book in this popular series and the stories show no sign of flagging yet; every book has something new and exciting to enjoy. This time it is midwinter, close to Christmas (or Yule for the many pagans) and Fidelma and Eadulf are traveling through a blizzard in a "mad" farmer's cart to reach Aldred's Abbey. This is home to Brother Botulf, a childhood friend of Eadulf who has to see him about something urgent. But once inside the abbey, everything starts to go wrong. Botulf has just been murdered, Abbot Cild is set against the Celtic Church and his former wife haunts the place. With Fidelma ill with a chill, Eadulf doesn't know where to turn, and soon the pair find themselves prisoners in this lonely abbey in the dead of winter, surrounded by dangerous and outlaw-haunted marshes.

     In true Cat and the Canary style here is a real winter's tale of a novel with a whole barrelful of red herrings, supernatural-seeming apparitions, outlaws and murders galore. Tremayne keeps the plot boiling merrily and serves up some entertaining new characters, gives us yet more insights into the usual ones and sets us wondering what is going to happen next. Saxon England, partly Christian but lapsing backwards into paganism, makes a robust and intriguing backdrop for this story, and away from Ireland it is free of the often rosy glow that surrounds Tremayne's depiction of Golden Age Eire as an "ideal" society. Once again, I am glad to see a guide to the pronunciation of the Irish words was included, as well as the usual useful preface to this little-known period. This is the sort of book that needs a crackling fire and carol singers at the door on a frosty night, but failing that wherever and whenever you read it this is still a highly entertaining whodunit.

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