Absolution by Murder

by Peter Tremayne
First sentence: “The man had not been dead long.”
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Content: Murders, all off screen, and a lot (a LOT) of historical information to wade through. A novel for people with patience and time and a passing interest in Seventh Century Ireland/England/Catholicism. Nothing untoward (aside from the dead people) though.

This book is about a lot of things:
1. The mid-seventh century.
2. Early Catholicism in medieval England and Ireland.
3. The history of convents/monasteries in that time period.
4. The Saxon-Irish animosity of the time.
5. Saxon traditions that someone Irish would find despicable.
6. A woman court advocate in Ireland.
7. Solving a murder.

This book (I know I skipped the plot. It goes like this: there was a murder. They solve it. There’s 200 pages of incidental historical information.) has the same problem that many of the fantasy books I read have: there’s too much world-building (in this case, it’s medieval Great Britain) and not enough, well, plot.

I had the same problem I had with Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night: I felt like Tremayne (who is a professor of Celtic history) thought: “I’ve got ALL this historical information I NEED TO SHARE. Let’s see HOW MUCH I can put in this book!!” and then he proceeded to cram it ALL in. There was a plot — the abbess is murdered and Sister Fidelma (she’s the Irish woman court advocate) and a Saxon male (for the sake of balance) solve it. But I felt like the murder — which is really supposed to be the PLOT of the whole book — was incidental to the history. And I realized (even though I finished this one) that if I really wanted to read a book about medieval Great Britain, I’d find a non-fiction one.

One thought on “Absolution by Murder

  1. haha. World building is okay to a point… I still haven't got around to reading Shadow of Night, but since there was some of that happening in her first book I am not surprised. I have heard of this author but never really rushed out to read him.


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