Master of Souls

Written by Peter Tremayne
Review by Celia Ellis

This is the 16th mystery for Sister Fidelma. On a bitter winter’s night, a ship is driven by wreckers onto a rocky shore, the crew butchered and the cargo stolen; only one man escapes. The following morning, an abbess leading a pilgrimage is killed and the young nuns accompanying her are abducted. In the nearby Abbey of Ard Fhearta, a scholar is brutally murdered.

Fidelma, sister to the King of Cashel, is sent to investigate the crimes and arrives at the Abbey with Eadulf, her husband. But this is the land of the Uí Fidgente, enemies to Cashel, and Fidelma gets a hostile reception. Her questions are met with lies, evasions and veiled threats. Convinced that the three crimes are connected, Fidelma and Eadulf leave the abbey to follow the trail of the kidnapped nuns. But here is even greater danger. A band of warriors is inflicting death and destruction on the countryside. Their leader is a mysterious figure known only as the Master of Souls, believed by the people to be Uaman, the Leper, returned from the dead to wreak vengeance on the local community. But is he responsible for the recent crimes?

I have read most of the Fidelma mysteries, and Master of Souls is as fresh as the earlier books. I did not guess the ending so enjoyed it right to the last page. Peter Tremayne breathes life into 7th century Ireland with his portrayal of people whose lives are shaped by its harsh landscape, its ancient Brehon laws, and the divisions that beset the early Church. His characters, as always, are well drawn and varied. Fidelma fans will enjoy this book.