Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma #1)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  2,117 ratings  ·  151 reviews
In A.D. 664, King Oswy of Northumbria has convened a synod at Whitby to hear debate between the Roman and Celtic Christian churches and decide which shall be granted primacy in his kingdom. At stake is much more than a few disputed points of ritual; Oswy's decision could affect the survival of either church in the Saxon kingdoms. When the Abbess Etain, a leading speaker fo...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Signet (first published 1994)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
83rd out of 905 books — 2,113 voters
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis PetersMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana FranklinOne Corpse Too Many by Ellis PetersThe Daughter of Time by Josephine TeyCompany Of Liars by Karen Maitland
Favorite Medieval Mystery Writers
14th out of 59 books — 62 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Matthew Hunter
What to label Absolution by Murder? Celtic propaganda? A hit piece on ancient Angle, Saxon and Roman cultures? A theological and philosophical debate? A sexless romance novel? A murder mystery? Actually, it's a bit of everything rolled into a 272-page book. There's much to love and loathe in this first installment of the Sister Fidelma series of historical mysteries.

I took away plenty from the book. First and foremost, I learned that Tremayne, as a scholar of all things Irish, loves ancient Iris...more
hmmm...looked interesting at the library; and since I do love Cadfael (and miss Ellis Peters), I was willing to give it a shot. I'm glad a few other readers let me know that the writing style has its hiccups...but I have to admit, finding it a really hard slog. The main character is interesting but the author had decided we need to know everything he knows, instead of dropping in just enough historical detail for background and to let me (the reader) explore it too. I keep going (not sure why-ho...more
This is the first a eighteen books in this series. They are historical mysteries set in Ireland in the mid-seventh century AD. Sister Fidelma is the protagonist. She is a religieuse and a qualified dalaigh - in other words a lawyer in that system of law. Tremayne is an excellant writer and an Irish historian, one of the best. As well as thoroughly enjoying the stories I am almost in awe of the Irish system of law in that historical period. I have found myself more than once wishing that that sys...more
Great setting, and a time and place I knew next to nothing about. It was fun to hear the echoes of How the Irish Saved Civilization. And it's a fairly competent mystery; although the minor characters are cutouts, and like others I suspected the perp all along, I didn't really put it together until the denouement.

But I agree with other two- and three-star reviewers. The stylistic problems in Tremayne's prose are distracting, given the high quality of others in the genre. For example: he loses hi...more
It was ok. I am willing to give Tremayne the benefit of the doubt and just assume he hadn't yet quite figured out his fiction voice yet, since this WAS the first fiction book he'd written. His history books are better, and he is clearly more comfortable with that genre since he was simply unable to refrain from adding in somewhat irrelevant historical facts to this book. It wasn't terrible, just not very good.

I think he also needs a better editor. I found numerous grammatical errors, and a few...more
I thought it was about time I tried this series as it's been on my to be read for over a year.
I am a big fan of medieval mysteries and this is well on it's way to being a favorite just from the first book.

When the Celtic and Roman Church followers gather in Whitby to try and iron out their differences, the tension is palatable. When Abbess Etain is found murdered before she can speak for the Celtic church the tensions rise to an almost unbearable level and King Oswy turns to Irish lawyer Sister...more
That "Peter Tremayne" (pseudonym of an unnamed medieval scholar) can't write his way out of a cloister. I got halfway through before giving it up as a waste of reading time. Wooden prose that could have used an editor. Too many references to Sister's green eyes (or blue?), as well as to the Brother's "deep baritone voice". As opposed to a thin, reedy baritone voice? The murder mystery is almost incidental to academic discussions of Roman vs. Irish Catholicism in the 7th Century. One cover blurb...more
The first 50 pages were extremely challenging. I picked up this detective novel featuring a female detective (really, a nun-lawyer), expecting escapist literature. Tremayne makes some demands on the reader by setting this mystery in 7th C. Northumbria during a meeting between Roman-influence Catholics and Irish-influenced Catholics of Britannia.

An historian by training, Tremayne gives a lot of background about people from various backgrounds (Irish, Saxon, Franks, Picts, Romans) and various rel...more
I read this just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, and it was a great choice even though it didn’t actually take place in Ireland. This is the first book in an expansive series of period mysteries starring plucky Irish dalaigh (lawyer/detective) Sister Fidelma. I’m told the series improves over time, which is exactly what I needed to hear; the rich setting and characters stand in contrast to fairly lackluster writing.

Our heroine accompanies a delegation to Saxon Northumbria, where the Synod of Whit...more
Joyce Lagow
First in the Sister Fidelma series, set in 7th century Ireland and environs.[return][return]As has been typical of the Christian Church practically from its beginnings, the differences between sects of the young religion were bitter and especially after Constantine made the Christian church the official religion of his empire, often were disputed by violence. It is no different in 664 C.E.; at stake, naturally, is power as well as belief. The northern part of what we now know as England was evan...more
Jul 10, 2007 Salix rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: family-owned
Hey, it's my favorite murder mystery series! Peter Tremayne has written the Sister Fidelma mysteries, set in near-ancient Ireland (usually), back when the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages.

Absolution by Murder is the first book in the series, although about the eighth that I read, due to the fact our copy was lost. In any case, it makes a good introduction to the series, and has a nice little mystery all wrapped up inside. Although this one is set in Whitby and not my favorite seeting of Mum...more
The beginning is hard to get through simply because I'm not familiar with 7th/8th century Great Britain - so the names, history etc is a challenge to understand. But I wikied this history, paid more attention to the names and it was a really good mystery to read plus I got a new education. I'll continue to read the series!

PS - in my ebook, the 'foreward' was at the end - would've been useful at the beginning. Read the foreward first whereever it's located in the book.

Educational might be the way I would describe this one and I want a little more than that from a mystery. In one instance Sister Fidelma says, "Enough! I will never master all these outlandish Saxon names." I could not agree more. To learn about the importance of the Irish during the Dark Ages and the advanced stage of their culture at that time (Democratic principles and fair rights for women) it is a good source. As a mystery it left much to be desired.
This is the first book in the sister Fidelma series, after reading a current one, I wanted to read the series from the start. It was not a disappointment. Sister Fidelma's legal services are requested at a synod (meeting), in which religious dignitaries are gathered to debate, as the high king Oswy will decide weather Northumbria will follow Ireland or Rome on matters of interpretation on Gospels. The sister is to be there in case a matter of law comes up, of course it does, in the form of murde...more
I have always enjoyed medieval mysteries having gone through all of Ellis Peters novels and almost all of Paul Doherty's Brother Athelstan series. There are still numerous offerings on bookshelves so I decided to next tackle Peter Tremayne's series featuring Sister Fidelma. Fidelma will leave a lasting impression on any reader: her background, intellectual ability and legal know-how all contribute to render a memorable character. My personal academic background is sixteenth century England so I...more
I really wanted to love this book. However, it was pretentious and although quite eloquent it was a bit forced. I found no connection at all to any of the characters and the author gave me reason to dislike basically all of them. The fact that the author obviously knows his Irish history bumps this to a 2/5.
Robin Rousu
Loved the historical setting and details, but figured out whodunnit about halfway through. Will definitely read more in this series, though.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

For a further review: http://susannag.booklikes.com/post/44... .
3,5 Sterne.

Ein extrem kurzweiliger historischer Krimi mit einigen Schwachstellen.

Die Heldin des Buchs ist die irische Nonne Schwester Fidelma. Sie ist mehr oder weniger perfekt. Ihr Haar ist rot und schwer zu bändigen, ihre Statur zierlich, ihre Augenfarbe wechselt zwischen blau und grün. Sie sei viel zu hübsch für das Zölibat, meint Äbtissin Abbe, aber das war zur Zeit des Romans ohnehin noch nicht vorgeschrieben. Natürlich ist sie auch hochintelligent, und trotz ihrer Jugend schon eine Art Ric...more
A murder/mystery set in the mid seventh century A.D. Even though modern people consider this period (after the fall of the Roman empire) to be the "Dark Ages", there were still bastions of learning and culture left in the world. And Ireland was one of these places. Sister Fidelma is a religious member of the community of St. Brigid of Kildare in Ireland. She is also a well-qualified advocate of the law courts of Ireland. Ireland at the time was governed by a sophisticated set of laws known as th...more
EJ Johnson
Feb 06, 2009 EJ Johnson rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: history reader
Peter Tremayne is the pseudonym for Peter Ellis who is a much published historian specializing in Ancient Celts. He started writing short stories about Sister Fidelma to help his students understand the culture of Ireland before 1000 AD. Then his fans started asking him to turn his short stories into a novel. Absolution by Murder was his first novel. Sister Fidelma is an attorney who believes the law above all else. She is an excellent investigator and being a beautiful redhead, she is also quic...more
Das erste Buch, in dem Schwester Fidelma und Bruder Eadulf zusammen ermitteln. Um die Religionszwistigkeiten in England und Irland zwischen der irischen und der römischen Tradition zu lösen, wird eine Versammlung in einem englischen Kloser einberufen, wo Vertreter beider Seiten ihre Ansichten darlegen sollen. Auf der Basis dieser Darlegungen beabsichtigt der König Northumbriends sich für eine der Ansichten entscheiden und sie in einem Reich für verbindlich erklären. Von dieser Entscheidung hängt...more
Our book group was to discuss this book. I did't like the enormous number of characters introduced--genealogy I was not interested in, but the plot and activities moved quickly. I didn't realize Sister Fidelma had an international society. She is in a religious order and is a dalaigh, a cross between a lawyer/judge and private investigator. King Oswy has gathered many important religious figures at the Abbey of Streoneshalh to argue for the Celtic or Roman Church. At the end he will pick one of...more
Feminists were alive and well in 7th century Ireland. A well educated Dailaigh (similar to but more than a lawyer, not quite a judge, carries out investigations), sister of a king, travels the known world with her Saxon friend, Brother Eadulf. Because of her rank, connections, ability in unarmed combat and overall intelligence at seeing patterns she becomes famous and is called on to solve all types of mysteries, many with a religious undertone as this is the time period when the Catholic church...more
This story was wonderful. I like Sister Fidelma. She is a highly trained Irish laywer. (sorry forgot the official Irish word) This is the first of a series. There is a lot of little things to indicate how people lived during the mid-7th century. During this time Ireland was the place to be for highly educated individuals. The book and show "How the Irish Saved Civilization" comes to mind. (note: unsure how to italicize, so I apologize to any who are concerned at my quotes)

This book took a bit t...more
John Carter
this was my introduction to Sister Fidelma series, and found it enjoyable, a bit long winded, but still enjoyable and would suggest that people try it. It is placed brilliantly in a historic context of the council at Witby, which did change the character of the English church. It is well done in that sense and for those that like history this is worth the read.
Carolyn F.
I really enjoyed this book because there was so much I didn't know. Such as in Ireland in this 600s women could own property, could rule, could hold high office and really had the same rights as men. It's so sad that didn't stay in effect.

The murderer I figured out pretty quickly with some fairly broad hints - when they describe a character as unusual because of certain qualities and then those qualities are important later on you can put 2 and 2 together. I ended up really enjoying this book.
As a work of escapist writing, this is not a bad book. Historically, it is very mixed. My main complaint is that the author has created a false dichotomy of Irish=civilized, Saxons=uncivilized. In his quest to do justice to the often downtrodden and neglected Irish, he has gone too far in the other direction. While the Saxons had their brutal moments, they were not quite as unceasingly rough as Trmayne makes out. On the other hand, you might get the impression that the early Irish never settled...more
Jennifer Bagby
Nov 25, 2013 Jennifer Bagby marked it as to-read
Shelves: mystery
Sister Fidelma
1. Absolution by Murder (1994)
2. Shroud for the Archbishop (1995)
3. Suffer Little Children (1995)
4. The Subtle Serpent (1996)
5. The Spider's Web (1997)
6. Valley of the Shadow (1998)
7. The Monk Who Vanished: A Celtic Mystery (1999)
8. Act of Mercy (1999)
9. Hemlock At Vespers (2000)
10. Our Lady of Darkness (2000)
11. Smoke in the Wind (2001)
12. The Haunted Abbot (2002)
13. Badger's Moon (2003)
14. The Leper's Bell (2004)
15. Whispers of the Dead (2004)
16. Master of Souls (2005)
17. A Praye...more
If you enjoy reading Brother Cadfael, you will love the adventures of Sister Fidelma. Another twist on an old theme, murder investigated by a non-detective female. However, the twist is Tremayne's character is a mid-seventh century religious, who belongs to a religious community in a monastery in Ireland. She is one of the very educated women in Ireland at the time and qualifies as an advocate for the courts. One not only gets to read a good murder mystery, but also learns about the early Christ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Novice's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #1)
  • The Apothecary Rose (Owen Archer, #1)
  • Fortune Like the Moon (Hawkenlye Mysteries, #1)
  • Death Comes As Epiphany (Catherine LeVendeur, #1)
  • The Last Templar (Knights Templar, #1)
  • The Alehouse Murders (Templar Knight Mystery, #1)
  • A Plague on Both Your Houses (Matthew Bartholomew, #1)
  • Satan in St Mary's (Hugh Corbett, #1)
  • An Excellent Mystery (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #11)
  • Hangman Blind (An Abbess of Meaux Mystery, #1)
  • Death and the Chapman (Roger the chapman, #1)
Peter Berresford Ellis (born 10 March 1943) is a historian, literary biographer, and novelist who has published over 90 books to date either under his own name or his pseudonyms Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan. He has also published 95 short stories. His non-fiction books, articles and academic papers have made him acknowledged as an authority on Celtic history and culture. Under Peter Tremayne,...more
More about Peter Tremayne...
Shroud for the Archbishop (Sister Fidelma, #2) The Subtle Serpent (Sister Fidelma, #4) Suffer Little Children (Sister Fidelma, #3) Valley of the Shadow (Sister Fidelma, #6) The Monk Who Vanished (Sister Fidelma, #7)

Share This Book