A Prayer For The Damned by Peter Tremayne

A Prayer For The DamnedFebruary 668, Ireland. Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf are to be married at last and the most important people, both leaders and holy men, have gathered at Cashel for the celebrations. Obviously, everything goes smoothly and they all live happily ever after.

Of course not… The Abbot Ultan is attending the ceremony with every intention of protesting Fidelma’s marriage to a Saxon, but that’s not the only reason why he’s unpopular. He has at least two dark secrets in his past that are producing some extremely strong feelings amongst the other guests. Needless to say, it’s not long before he is found stabbed in his chamber. A man is witnessed leaving Ultan’s chamber – but that man is the King of Connacht. Demanding that Fidelma represent him, the wedding is necessarily delayed…

Things are never simple though, and it seems that someone has a deeper plan. When a second murder takes place, it seems that anyone could be the murderer…

Well, it’s not quite been as long as it was for Ellery Queen since I reviewed a Sister Fidelma mystery. Not at all sure why – the last couple had been a little disappointing, as the central mystery was only part of the tale, as compared to the earlier entries which had adopted the classic mystery style, complete with clues and gathering the suspects together at the end for the big reveal.

I mentioned in my last post that the British Library is hosting a series of talks concerning the Golden Age mystery and one of the last talks is called Taking The Golden Age Into The 21st Century. I wonder if this is the sort of book that falls under that category. The laying of clues, the identity of the second victim, the obvious clue that everyone misses… but I expect that the historical setting, rare in the Golden Age, will preclude it. Of the classics, I can only think of Death Comes As The End as an example from the classic authors, but in everything but that, this book totally hits the target.

I worry a little that the meticulously researched religious politics of the time might turn some readers away, but the different laws of the time add a different context to the crime, adding motivations that couldn’t be applied in the present day. But this is a clever mystery, full of misdirections and, most importantly, that obvious clue – I saw it, remembered it when it’s importance was pointed out and yet completely missed both it and the murderer.

Any previous reservations concerning the Fidelma-Eadulf relationship don’t apply here – there’s a naturalness and believability that has been missing in the recent books.

In fact, I can’t really fault this one. A cracking fair-play historical mystery. Highly Recommended.

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