As mysteries the Fidelma books are challenging, as history they are informative, and as little bits of human melodrama they are truly engaging.
In Council of the Cursed, Fidelma journeys to France to serve as aide and adviser at a conference of church leaders but ends up investigating a savage murder, amid a dark world of abuse within the abbey walls.
My Amazon link : The Council of the Cursed: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland
Sister Fidelma finds herself in tense situations where she has to use her wits, her deductive abilities and her knowledge of both law and human nature to solve mysteries which can decide the fate of peoples and nations.
The historical element in these novels is very strong. I’ve learned a lot from the Fidelma novels, such as the surprisingly high legal status of women in Ancient Ireland.
Fidelma is an Irish religieuse of the seventh Century, a trained advocate of the ancient Irish law system of the time – the Laws of the Fenechus, popularly called the Brehon law system. She is called upon to solve dark mysteries and murder most foul.
Ireland has preserved as part of her heritage a large body of ancient law tracts, known collectively as ‘Fenechas’, the law of the Feine (Freemen), or more commonly, the Brehon Law. These laws are the oldest in Europe.
The interpretation and enforcement of the law was vested in the hands of a specialist group of advocates known as Brehons. These advocates were highly trained in memorising huge amounts of traditional knowledge and intricate judgments and were also responsible for the execution of public religious rituals and ceremonies. The sacred power of myth was brought to bear upon matters of judgement. Disputes over land use were settled according to the mythological divisions of Ireland; sick maintenance was assessed according to an alleged ‘Judgement of Iancecht’, the God of Medicine, indeed all manner of judgements, fines, satires and punishments were to be found in the myths and legends.
The Brehon usually pronounced judgement in the form of a proverb – the Irish are still skilled in this kind of word play today.
The Brehon Laws gave the individual men and women more freedom than the later English law. Peter Tremayne (acclaimed celtic scholar Peter Beresford Ellis) illustrates this with his delightful and intriguing books about Sister Fidelma.
Mór í an fhirrinne, agus buaidhfe sí
Truth is great and will prevail