The Haunted Abbot
St. Martin's Minotaur, May, 2004.
Hardcover, 298 pages.
Sister Fidelma of Cashel and her husband of one year, Brother Eadolf, are on their way home from Britain when they decide to stop to see Eadulf's childhood friend, Brother Botulf. Brother Botulf lives at Aldred's Abbey and wrote Eadulf a cryptic letter begging him to visit. When the arrive, they find that the Abbey's evil reputation is well-deserved. Abbot Cild won't allow women on the premises of the Abbey and is fanatical about women knowing their place and about keeping the rules of Rome. When the pair discover that Brother Botulf was murdered just that morning and then the Abbot sees the ghost of his dead wife, he accuses Fidelma of being a witch and imprisons her to await trial for witchcraft. The penalty for a witchcraft conviction is death. Fidelma has come down with a respiratory infection and is quite ill, so Eadulf is on his own for much of the investigation to find Botulf's murderer and save Fidelma. Politics intervenes as well, giving new urgency to the investigation as civil war is about to break out.
Seventh century Britain is not an easy place to be a woman. Fidelma, as a brehon or magistrate, is used to having authority over legal proceedings in Ireland and having her opinions taken seriously. To be stuck in the seventh century with a group of men who look upon women as chattel is intolerable. (One wonders what effect this will have on her marriage.) Peter Tremayne continues to delight readers with his mastery of historical detail, intricate plotting and vivid characterizations.
--Claire E. White
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