Death of a Heretic

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Pub Date 02 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jul 2022

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The suspicious death of a foreign bishop brings trouble to Sister Fidelma and the kingdom of Muman.

Ireland. AD 672.
The abbey of Muman at Imleach Iubhair is being renovated when its guests' hostel burns to the ground. There is one fatality: Bishop Brodulf of Luxovium, a distinguished visitor and cousin to the King of Franks. Sister Fidelma is asked by Abbot Cuán to investigate the unfortunate incident and soon finds that the bishop had been stabbed to death before the fire had even started.

Thrown into a world of treachery and jealousy, where religious beliefs are vehemently disputed, Fidelma and her companions, Eadulf and Enda, face a barrier of deceit. The abbey, a leading ecclesiastical teaching institution as well as a conhospitae, housing both men and women, is divided into factions. Can Abbot Abbot Cuán trust Prioress Suanach, who is in charge of the sisterhood? Can the professors trust each other as well as their students? Moreover, can suspicion be levelled at the builders working on the abbey under their dominant Master Builder, Sítae? As more deaths follow, Fidelma must use her wit and ingenuity to unravel the complexities of this intricate mystery.

The suspicious death of a foreign bishop brings trouble to Sister Fidelma and the kingdom of Muman.

Ireland. AD 672.
The abbey of Muman at Imleach Iubhair is being renovated when its guests' hostel...

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ISBN 9780727889669
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Featured Reviews

A really good read full of history, danger and intrigue. I loved the storyline and the setting. It was such a compelling read that was very well researched.

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Thank you, NetGalley and Severn House, for the Advanced copy of the book.
I have read several of Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma Mysteries Books. And I can honestly say the names do not get any easier to pronounce.
Kudos to the author for the list of principal characters and the map at the beginning of the book. These were incredibly useful, as was the author's note.
The books themselves are epic in quality, and the research that has gone into them has been immense. The seventh-century Irish super-sleuth Sister Fidelma is an incredible invention, and her escapades are always breathtaking.
Medieval Ireland is brought vividly to life in all its glory within the narrative. Each and every detail of daily life is described with clarity and eloquence. The historical background information fed into the story really brings a touch of realism and naturalness.
It is fascinating to watch the dynamics at play as Fidelma goes about her business, trying to sift through all the misdirection in order to make her stumble. But she is a canny soul and does not suffer fools gladly.
There is more to be had than just the murders, as religion and politics usually clash head-on in one form or another. This time it is in-house politics, and Fidelma and her friends definitely have their work cut out to solve this crime.
The characters are well-drawn and well defined. The settings are wonderfully described and give you a sense of actually being there in person witnessing the occasion.
Death of a Heretic can be read as a stand-alone novel. I heartily suggest that you try and catch up on some of the previous books because they are excellent historical mysteries.
Death of a Heretic is a fine addition to an already superb series, which I highly recommend.

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When a foreign bishop visiting an Irish monastery dies in a fire, the fear of international repercussions arises. But when evidence turns up showing the bishop was dead before the fire was set, it is fortuitous that Sister Fidelma happens to be in the neighborhood.

A judge trained in 6th Century Irish law, Sister Fidelma teaches readers of Peter Tremayne's series about religion and law in the years before Christianity completely buried Druidism and invaders' penchant for punishment killed the Irish system of restitution.

Tremayne is a talented writer who creates memorable characters and leaves readers with a lot to ponder.

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Two beloved characters in this long running series of Sister Fidelma advocate of the Ancient Irish Breton Court and Brother Eadulf investigate to see about a fire at the Abbey of Muman. This will lead to murder of a visiting Bishop who had strict religious beliefs from Rome. There are plenty of suspicious characters from the Master Builder Sitae part of the Abbey’s renovation to the Prioress Suanach. Fidelma is very much a strong female character who learnings of the Law stand her in good stead when she listens, notices and uses all her wits to present her findings. The description of Ancient Ireland with all its factions and religious politics are well presented and leave you well embedded in this enthralling story.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I have read with enjoyment each entry in this series since it began in 1994. I relish the way in which the author envelops the mystery genre with medieval history, controversy in the early Christian Church and his love of languages.

However, I found this, the thirty second novel following the career and investigations of Sister Fidelma, slightly less to my taste. Partly this is due to the writing which is at times unduly repetitious, with some infelicitous phrasing. In part it is because of the portrayal of the central character, who here is acting more like the noble Fidelma of Cashel, haughty, imperious and impatient and decidedly not treating her husband Eadulf as a "co-equal", rather than like "Sister" Fidelma.

The plot, too, is rather static. There are endless rounds of questions which seem to get nowhere until Fidelma has a huge inspiration late on. There are a few clues to help the reader, and we all have to wait until the dramatic revelations of the final chapter for full enlightenment. The biggest clue, in some ways, is in the book's title.

I wonder what the average reader makes of the differences in the Celtic and Roman Churches, the extensive use of Latin and Irish, and of the complexities of early medieval European history. I find the debates on Pelagianism and the Arian controversy, the Church Councils, the infighting of the Merovingian dynasty, interesting as they are all areas of which I have some knowledge and understanding, but will other readers spend a lot of time "googling" in order to fully appreciate all that goes on here?

I find now and again that the extended explanations of customs, words and phrases can be irritating and condescending as well as intrusive in the narrative flow. At times the leisurely plot ground to a halt because of this.

For new readers, this is not the best place to start, for devotees like me, it is a little disappointing. However, even on a bad day, this series is still a beacon of light and enlightenment, a joy in a world beset by mediocrity.

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House (Canongate Books) for the digital review copy.

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