Midsummer in the year 671 is a time for sorrow, nefarious schemes, and murder in ancient Ireland.
Colgú, King of Muman, sends for his sister, Fidelma of Cashel, a seasoned advocate of the law (The Devil’s Seal, 2015, etc.), when he learns of the murder of Ségdae, Chief Bishop and his adviser at the stronghold of Donennach, Prince of the Uí Fidgente, with whom they’ve only recently made peace. Fidelma, her husband, Eadulf, and the warrior Enda are shocked to be intercepted along the way by Ciarnat, a young woman who informs them that Gormán, a commander of Colgú’s bodyguard, has already been found guilty of the crime. Fidelma steps into a wasp’s nest of religious disagreements between followers of the current Irish law, which emphasizes monetary payments for misdeeds, and Abbott Nannid, a rabid leader of the Penitentials, a group that decrees punishments should follow the unforgiving rules of the Old Testament. It’s no wonder that Gormán has been convicted, since he was found unconscious in a locked room with the body. Certain, despite the evidence, that Gormán is innocent, Fidelma sets out to prove it, even if it means fighting Nannid and his cohorts every step of the way. When Gormán escapes, Fidelma, setting out to find him, comes upon a string of ruthless murders carried out by outlaws whom she eventually sees meeting with Nannid. Fidelma is a cool and canny advocate who is deeply disturbed by Nannid’s efforts to force his new rules on Donennach. Her country’s rich legal tradition is important to her, and it will take all her knowledge and the force of her personality to free Gormán and keep her own people from having to fight another war with the Uí Fidgente.
History buffs will enjoy Tremayne’s account of life in early Ireland. Casual readers may find the easily solved locked-room mystery swamped by the period detail.