Infidelity, political intrigue, unreliable household help, religious persecution and a murder or two in seventh-century Ireland.
The Great Assembly of the five kingdoms of Ireland invites legal advocate Fidelma of Cashel to investigate the murder of Sechnussach, the High King, whose throat was cut as he slept in his bedchamber. His assassin, a clan chieftain devoted to the Old Faith, lay nearby with just enough strength before he died to mutter a single word to the royal retainers now crowding the room. In their quest to find out Dubh Duin’s motive, Fidelma (A Prayer for the Damned, 2007, etc.) and her husband Eadulf quickly learn that the sentries were distracted from their post; a man who had just had his throat cut bled surprisingly little into his bedclothes; and a mysterious object a bishop delivered to the High King the night before his assassination is now missing. Also misplaced are one of the sharpest kitchen knives and a bracelet belonging to a serving girl, who says she lost it in the king’s bedchamber, where she ought not to have been. Unless, that is, she was the king’s “second wife” while his first wife took a lover of her own. When Fidelma and Eadulf try to track down the bishop, they run afoul of marauding warriors bent on desecrating churches of the New Faith and replacing the High King with a champion of the Old.
A classic puzzle deadened by throngs of unpronounceable names and historical tidbits only a pedant could care about.