The Council of the Cursed

Written by Peter Tremayne
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

In AD 670 an important Christian council was held at Autun, in what is now Burgundy in France, to decide certain matters concerning the European church, including the universal adoption of the Rule of St. Benedict for all monasteries. This specified, amongst other things, that there would be no more mixed establishments and that monks and nuns would live in separate buildings and follow the rule of celibacy. This did not appeal to the Celtic churches. The story is set around this council in that Sister Fidelma and her husband, Eadulf, are sent as delegates of one of the Irish kingdoms, of which at that time there were five. Bishop Leodegar (pronounced Léger) already follows the new rule to the extent that the erstwhile wives and children of the monks at Autun live in a separate community, known as the Domus Femini, next door to the monastery. When one of the abbots at the council is found dead, Sister Fidelma is called upon by the bishop to solve the mystery. She soon discovers that the situation is far more complex than a simple murder.

This is the latest Sister Fidelma mystery in a long line of stories, and it is every bit as good as the rest. The characters breathe, the plot twists and turns, and of all the clues scattered amongst the pages, I only managed to spot one. Peter Tremayne has a good grasp of 7th-century Ireland and weaves the fictional tale into an historic event with his usual skill and artistry.