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Absolution by Murder (A Sister Fidelma Mystery) (Mystery of Ancient Ireland) Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1997

91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This immensely appealing launch of a new series is set in seventh-century Ireland, which in Tremayne's rendering is a golden age of enlightenment and of total equality for women. Such narrative stumbling blocks as an abundance of stereotypical characters and much more dynastic trivia, ecclesiastical and secular history than can be absorbed are offset by the vigorous, intriguing puzzle posed by a series of murders and by Sister Fidelma, the tale's brilliant and beguiling heroine. An ecclesiastical conclave to settle major divisions between the Roman and Celtic branch of Christianity is held at Whitby in 664. When a major proponent of the Celtic way, the Abbess of Kildare, is murdered, Sister Fidelma, a fellow Celtic follower and legally trained scholar, is asked to investigate. She is paired with her ideological opposite, Brother Eadulf, on the Roman side, who is shrewd, highly educated and immediately smitten with the outspoken sister. The intellectual and physical sparks that are ignited between these two clerics (in an age before celibacy) light up the pages, and when two monks are killed and the malevolence thickens, the book becomes difficult to put down. It is reassuring to read that Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf will reappear... next time in Rome.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Peter Tremayne is the pseudonym for Peter Berresford Ellis, a well-respected authority on the ancient Celts. He is the author of over twenty books, including The Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, The Celtic Dawn: A History of Pan Celticism, and The Druids. Valley of the Shadow is the sixth Sister Fidelma mystery. Tremayne lives in London, England.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451192990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451192998
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Tremayne is the fiction pseudonym of Peter Berresford Ellis, a renowned Celtic scholar who has written over 30 books on the Ancient Celts and the Irish. As Tremayne, he is best known for his stories and novels featuring 7th century Irish religieuse Fidelma of Cashel. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I stumbled across the first "Sister Fidelma-mystery" quite by accident; and I have never before had a more lucky discovery! Sister Fidelma is Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and Father Brown all rolled into one as well as being the female equivalent to the role played by Sean Connery in "name of the rose". Tremayne writes in a style, which can only be compared to that of Agatha Christie, - with one MAJOR difference though: Where Agatha Christie often let her victims die a hoffifying death by poisoning; Tremayne displays a taste for variation: The first victim in this particular book thus meets her untimely death by throatcutting, another one is drowned in wine, and a third is hanged. I very much like the way Tremayne entertains as well as teaches at the same time. While I read this book, I learned more about the Irish legalsystem in 7th century Ireland, than I ever did at university... I have now read all but one "Sister Fidelma-mystery", and I hope that I will not be reading the last but merely the latest!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. Eames on February 11, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The historical setting of this book with the conflict between Celtic and Roman Christianity was intriguing and realistic. You get a genuine sense for the time and place. The downfall, and it is quite a fall, is the wooden prose. I have never seen so many characters grimace. Tremayne uses the word "grimace" frequently, conspicously, and awkwardly. In addition, Sister Fidelma's character is one-dimensional. She isn't a medieval feminist from an enlightened society; she is just a grouch. If she isn't angry, she's irritated, impatient, insulted, or otherwsie bothered. Once in a while she is pleasant, but then she grimaces and your back to square one. The plot is crafted well enough, though the murderer wasn't hard to guess. In sum, this might be worth a single read, but I wouldn't search for the hard cover version.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Much like the means of transportation in this novel's 7th century setting, Peter Tremayne's Murder by Absolution moves slowly. It is predictable and densely-written. Tremayne's characters are largely bland and uninteresting. Notable in this respect is Brother Eodulf, whose sole purpose in the novel seems to be a straight man who provides all the obvious--and obviously wrong--solutions to the mystery.

The only compelling element in this novel is its protagonist, Sister Fidelma. She is a surprisingly strong female character, especially given the 7th century setting. However, the author's stereotyping of her as a fiery Irish woman diminishes an otherwise interesting character.

Perhaps worst of all, Murder by Absolution commits the sin of being a predictable mystery. I knew halfway through the book who had commited the murders.

If you like historic settings for your mysteries, you're better off going elsewhere. My suggestion would be Sharon McCrumb's If I'd Killed Him When I Met Him or her equally intriguing She Walks These Hills.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karina A Suarez VINE VOICE on July 16, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the first Sister Fidelma mystery, writer Peter Ellis - writing under the pen name of Peter Tremayne - takes us on a fantastic and memorable journey to the time of the rivalries between the ancient Celt and Saxon tribes of England. The mystery is set against the historical background of the debate between the Celtic and Roman Church factions at Whitby back in AD 664. Oswy, the current King of Northumbria, has called this big assembly at Streoneshalh Abbey, a place directed by his cousin, the Abbess Hilda. Important representatives and religieuses from all over Ireland, Britain and Rome are arriving at the Abbey with the purpose of determining once and for all which Church the Kingdom of Northumbria will follow. Sister Fidelma, an advocate of the courts of Ireland, is also in attendance. When she arrives, she meets with her long time friend, Abbess Étain of Kildare. Known for her culture and eloquence, she is to be the opener speaker for the Celtic faction. However, when the debate opens, Abbess Étain's seat is empty. A few moments later, she is found dead in her cubiculum, her throat slashed. It is immediately suspected that the opposition would be the culprit, but is it? And more importantly, how to prove it?
The King of Northumbria, on learning about Fidelma's position as a dálaigh of the Irish Courts, urges her to bring the murderer to justice. Since rumours are already starting to circulate, no time is to be lost. The country is on the brink of Civil War. Fidelma agrees, and in so doing she accepts the condition imposed by the King of having the crime investigated in conjunction with a representative of the Roman faction, a Saxon by the name of Brother Eadulf. Thus forms one of the most famous partnerships in history for the purpose of solving crimes.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca M on July 25, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked up Absolution by Murder in a used bookstore, thinking it would be a good airplane read. I soon found out that my level of ignorance pertaining to medieval Ireland was only going to make this mystery an irksome chore on an airplane!
Setting it aside to give it the time it deserves was a much better idea! Although initially slow and somewhat bogged down in the finer historical detail, I was soon swept into Sister Fidelma's world where nuns are NOT silent, men of the cloth are not always good, and politics are NEVER petty.
The characters are vivid, but Tremayne never gives away too much so that the "villians" aren't who they appear to be. He tempts the romantic with the introduction of Brother Eadulf but never succumbs to cheap romance or idle folly. The mysterious cultivation of friendship between Fidelma and Eadulf gives the most personal view of the protagonist(s).
The multiple murders keep you guessing to the end. The story picks up speed in the last half and is indeed VERY HARD TO PUT DOWN!
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