The stakes are high indeed in this seventh installment in the Sister Fidelma mystery series, because this time she is fighting to protect her brother's claim to the kingship of Murman.
The Ui Fidgente, a major clan of Murman, have been adversaries of Cashel for a long time, and indeed they have long challenged Cahsel's right to the kingship of Murman, refusing to pay tribute. Now however the current prince of Ui Fidgente, has decided to put all the bad blood between the two clans behind him and to negotiate a treaty of peace with Cashel. To this end, he and his retinue have come to Cashel in a gesture of goodwill in order to hammer out some form of an agreement. However, just as the two princes are about to exchange greetings, an unknown bowman shoots at them, wounding both men. He is later found dead, wearing the emblem of the Golden Chain, which identifies him as a member of Cashel's elite bodyguard. This proves to be a bad sign for Fidelma's brother, for if he is found guilty of the attempt of the prince of Ui Fidengente's life, the kingship of Murman would then be forfeit to the Ui Fidengente! Another bad sign: in the abbey at Imleach, the relics of the holy man Ailbe, has been stolen. Legend has it that if ever the relics were stolen then the kingship of Murman would fall from Cashel and chaos would ensue. It looks as if the two incidents are tied and that Fidelma will have to do some rather nifty detective work to discover who exactly is behind this move to take the throne away from her brother and start a war.
This historical mystery series is a really good one even if Peter Tremayne's writing style is a little to dense and dry. However he has struck gold in his creation of Sister Fidelma. In Fidelma, Tremanyne has created a brilliant and charming heroine, with a thirst to see justice done and set things right. The plot of this mystery novel is intriguing and a little convoluted, full of red herrings and sub-plots that have sometimes very little to do with the actual problem at hand. However the final denouncement where Fidelma finally lays all her cards on the table makes everything worthwhile: the somewhat dry and dense prose, the convoluted plot with all its red herrings, and the somewhat ranting style of communication that nearly everyone save Fidelma and Brother Eadulf seem to employ. A book well worth reading in spite of the few nit-picking problems I had with it.