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The Council of the Cursed
Sister Fidelma Mysteries - Book XIX

by Peter Tremayne

      Fidelma and Eadulf are off on their travels again, this time to another council concerning the adoption of Roman practices by all Western churches.  This is held in Autun, where the Franks now rule but also where the ousted Burgundians still hope to reclaim what was formerly theirs.  As Celts and Romans clash even at a pre-council meeting there seems little hope of a unanimous decision; and on arrival, Fidelma's party is met with news of a murder.  Although under the new rules Bishop Leodegar is reluctant to allow women anywhere but their own quarters, even he has heard of Fidelma of Cashel, and charges her to find out whodunit fast.  But this is only a small part of what is wrong in Autun.

Taking the protagonists on a journey outside their usual realm is always a good idea to keep a long-running series fresh, and this book is a good example of it working well.  The historical backdrop of warring tribes, uneasy churchmen and changing ideals makes for a compelling story; and although this is one of the longest books in the series, it carries its length admirably.  There is not only a murder to solve but also mysterious disappearances and suspicious local characters, making several cases in one that are intertwined a la Judge Dee.  Reminding the reader that this is part of a series as well as a complete story, several familiar characters also appear; and there is a chance to see the protagonists performing when hampered by foreign laws and rules. This is a period usually overlooked by historical novelists and it is hard to see why as there is just so much to write about.  Enjoyable as always.

The Book

August 2008
075532840X / 9780755328406
Historical Crime [670 Burgundy, France]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2009
© 2009