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The Council of the Cursed: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland    by Peter Tremayne order for
Council of the Cursed
by Peter Tremayne
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When the fascinating action of The Council of the Cursed begins, church leaders from Western Europe gather together for an important but contentious and volatile meeting in Burgundy in the year 670.

Then - in a classic locked room mystery - Abbot Dabhoc of Hibernia is murdered, and the barely conscious Bishop Ordgar of Canterbury and Abbot Cadfan of Gwynedd are found with the victim. Early evidence seems to implicate either Ordgar or Cadfan.

Pressure mounts to solve the crime and get on with the council's business because 'much hangs on the success of {the} council {where} the future of the western churches will be decided.' One interested party offers his simple theory on how to solve the mystery: 'If I would venture an opinion, I would say that it comes down to which person you believe. Both of them {Ordgar and Cadfan} cannot be telling the truth. A man is dead and there were only two others in the room. If the choice were mine, I would toss a coin.'

But there is no need to merely toss a coin since actual evidence is preferred. So, Sister Fidelma of Cashel and her husband Brother Eadulf of Seaxmund's Ham have been summoned to Burgundy. After all, the married sleuths 'have a talent for considering puzzles and finding solutions to problems,' so almost everyone - with a few notable exceptions - remains confident that the murder mystery will soon be solved.

However, church politics, intense personal rivalries, and too many closely guarded secrets complicate Fidelma and Eadulf's investigation. An overbearing bishop, an unpleasant abbess, a mysterious reliquary box, the strange disappearance of women and children, and ugly rumors of slave trading make the death of Abbot Dabhoc much more significant than first presumed.

Distinguished by meticulous plotting, complex characterizations, exhaustive historical detail, and a challenging puzzle, Peter Tremayne's latest mystery is one of the very best in his popular seventeen-novel series. Fans of erudite medieval clerical mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this highly recommended Sister Fidelma mystery, The Council of the Cursed.

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