Setting his mystery in Ireland AD 668, Tremayne has crafted an ingenious heroine, Fidelma of Cashel, and her betrothed, Brother Eadulf. All the great kings of Ireland have gathered to honor the wedding of a woman who has built her reputation on her lawyerly skills and the man she is to marry, a Saxon.
But the event is marred by the ill intentions of Abbot Ultran of Cill Ria, who has come to make a statement before the ceremony. The Catholic Church has not yet centralized in Rome, and Ultan is part of a group who follow the teachings of St. Paul and argue for celibacy of the clergy. Ireland is still immersed in the evolution of religion, from the old gods beloved of simple folk to the more specifically defined beliefs of the Church as established in Rome.
The King of Cashel, Fidelma’s brother, is responsible for the safety and protection of all his guests, so when the irascible abbot is murdered in his room and the King of Connacht is seen fleeing, witnesses make assumptions about the crime. But when the accused king requests Fidelma as his lawyer, he knows she will do everything necessary to deliver a fair and impartial judgment on his behalf.
Through Fidelma’s thorough investigation a twisted plot emerges, one that exposes the venal nature of a man of God who seeks power and the vengeful motives of another against a terrible injustice. Forced to put off her marriage until the murder is resolved, Fidelma is further frustrated by another murder that complicates the original crime and leads to other, more obscure motives.
Couched in a century of changing religions, power centers, and lawful traditions established by ruling kings, Fidelma is a unique figure. A learned, strong woman is on the cusp of a civilization that seeks to limit the acts of women and make them subservient to men. Clearly defining the Church’s path towards celibacy - and the reasons for that decision - Tremayne defines a dawning patriarchy that will place women secondary to men in all aspects of society: “What sort of loving religion is it that teaches the subjugation of one sex by another?”
Caught in a fascinating intrigue, Fidelma follows the troubling clues and obfuscations of men who seek power for its own sake and the blind love of one man for an ideal. Filled with treachery and cross-currents of deceit, Tremayne’s Fidelma of Cashel is a striking contrast in the world of male domination of 7th-century Ireland.