When last we met Sister Fidelma, she returned from revealing a serial killer in Badger’s Moon, only to find that her young son Alchu had been kidnapped. Initially it seemed that his nurse had taken him, but when she is found murdered with no sign of the boy, it seems that something even more serious is taking place. Forces are gathering with an eye to releasing old enemies of Cashel from a well-deserved imprisonment – if they are not freed, Alchu will die. The only clue is the appearance of a hooded figure ringing his bell – the sign of the leper.
Brother Eadulf and Fidelma find themselves being torn apart, the loss of Alchu widening a crack that had already formed in their relationship. But as they search in separate directions, they both find themselves in deadly danger…
I wasn’t convinced about this one at first. There didn’t really seem to be a solvable mystery, unlike everything else in the series – just a chase after the kidnappers, whoever they may be. But of course, as the kidnappers have gone with the child, they won’t be any suspects to spot. But after a few jumps in the history of the Fidelma-Eadulf relationship as time passed between books, we do finally see some development between them.
But as the book develops, and the picture becomes a little clearer – and I won’t say anymore than that for fear of you-know-what – I found the book, like many before it in the series to be a real page-turner. The exploits of Eadulf in particular – who seems to have found his brain again – were gripping and it was good to see him finally standing up for himself with regards to his position as an outsider in Cashel.
At the end of the day, the mystery is well done. The various threads tie themselves together, even if some of them are massive red herrings. There is some good misdirection, even when the shape of the mystery becomes clear.
The only thing to make the reader aware of is that some plot points of earlier books are given away in this one. Nothing, I think, that would spoil those mysteries unless you read that book immediately after this one, but worth pointing out all the same.
So another winner is this most consistent of series. Highly Recommended.