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Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma, #1)
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Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma #1)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  2,694 ratings  ·  193 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)
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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
93rd out of 1,029 books — 2,816 voters
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Community Reviews

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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
Tim
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
Barbara
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
Dawn
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
Bonnie
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
Mary
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
Karen
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
Kristen
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
Mary Drake
It got three stars because it is the first in a series, it's not terrible, and I'm sure Mr Tremayne (a pseudonymous historian) improves his fiction writing. In the meantime he forgets the point of his story - it's a whodunnit (with a bit of innocent romance thrown in) not a lesson in history with heavy emphasis on why Celtic Catholicism was better than the Roman variety and how childish both sides were in arguing the merits or otherwise. Hopefully this will reverse the usual trend and the second ...more
Justin
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
Janet McCord
My first of, hopefully, many Sister Fidelma books! What a revelation. Not only is the mystery well-written, (although I had my suspicions all along!), I learned even more about the Christian church in ancient Ireland and the politics and life in Britain as well. I found the fact of the "Dark" Ages was actually the Age of Enlightenment in Ireland and the lingering influence of the Roman Empire through the Church to be more compelling and interesting than the murder mystery itself. It certainly ga ...more
Monica Davis
Three stars for the author's thorough and knowledgeable historical perspective. The story itself is more like 2.5 stars. I didn't really connect with any of the characters...too "flat". The "mystery" was predictable and easily solved shortly after the murder happened. As this is the first in the series, I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and try another to see if he improves on the story development aspect.
Salix
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
Alice
Overall, a good read. The main characters are interesting and likable. The plot is well-constructed, and I liked the ending. The main draw for me was the setting. Tremayne has chosen an interesting time and place to set this series, and the social, political and religious tensions underlying the plot add some intriguing elements to the story. The author does a good job of bringing 7th century Britain to life in a way that feels natural and believable.

However, whilst the plot and characters are
...more
Angie
I had this recommended to me by a coworker who knew of my love for the Brother Cadfael series; and while I'll continue to hold the Cadfael series in higher regard, this isn't a shabby cousin to that beloved medieval monk detective.

This series follows Sister Fidelma of Kildare, an Irish nun in 664 AD who also happens to have studied law and is the equivalent of a sheriff or judiciary in her society. There's a heavy focus on the religious turmoil between those who follow the Columba traditions of
...more
Erika
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.

Sharla
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.
Ann
I'll give Absolution by Murder three stars because of the historical interest: I learned some fascinating things about early church history that I never knew, and that I bet you don't know either. Unfortunately, the book loses points on just about everything else. The writing is clunky, I had figured out who was going to kill whom long before anyone had died (and it only got more obvious from there on), and the plot - apart from the bits about the church doings – just wasn't that interesting. Al ...more
Mary
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
henrys-axe
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
Mike
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.
Meg Morden
I had read the short stories about Sister Fidelma earlier this summer and so decided to start her series at the beginning. I loved this story set in 664 CE at the synod in Whitby, Northumbria, where the members of both the Celtic and Roman churches gathered to present arguments on matters ranging from the date of Easter to tonsure design. The tensions at this politically charged meeting are ramped up when one of the participants is found murdered. Sister Fidelma, a religious of the community of ...more
Sarah
I really enjoyed the first entry in the Sister Fidelma historical mystery series. Set against the backdrop of the Synod of Whitby in AD 664, Sister Fidelma, an Irish, Celtic Christian, was tasked to investigate a murder along with a Saxon, Roman Christian. Not only was the mystery entertaining, but I also found the historical details fascinating. While Fidelma is a fictional character, the author interweaves historical characters, which gives the novel a breath of authenticity. I learned more ab ...more
Finuala
You know how sometimes you find yourself eating something because it's there and you kinda enjoy it but on reflection, you're honestly not sure why? That.

Peter Beresford Ellis, writing as Peter Tremayne, is a Celtic historian of some note and a member of the Royal Historical Society. It's clear that he knows his stuff, though the nuggets of history jarred with the storyline and so didn't help the narrative. I also felt that the identity of the murderer was too easy to deduce too early in the boo
...more
Marta
Reading Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne is like:

Reading an episode of Murder, She Wrote set in Ancient Ireland or thereabouts.

Would you marry Absolution by Murder, by Peter Tremayne (NOT HIS REAL NAME):

I would not marry this book because this book was a little homophobic and I don't marry a book just b/c it's exactly what I want (except for being a little homophobic), even if I fully intend to read the next 23 books in the series.

Would you like to add any spoilers?:

It's not possible to sp
...more
Diana Herrera
Well, the author certainly knows his history. I got really overwhelmed with information at certain points, wasn't sure I'd be able to follow the story! I liked reading about this particular period in time, which is usually overlooked in historical fiction. It kept me interested, the whole thing was very well-written. The only down side was that I had pretty much figured out who the killer was very early on which was a little disappointing. It was too obvious. I quite like Sister Fidelma, though. ...more
Robin Rousu
Loved the historical setting and details, but figured out whodunnit about halfway through. Will definitely read more in this series, though.
Pamela Hofman
It's certainly interesting to read about ancient Celtic history. I was completely ignorant about the early, 7th century divisions in the practice of Christianity between the followers of Rome and those of Ireland, and the huge theological differences. I know the author, Peter Tremayne is an accomplished historian so I'm assuming the background is relatively correct. That being said, the mystery itself, and the main characters, Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf, didn't grab me all that much. I pl ...more
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Sister Fidelma (1 - 10 of 25 books)
  • Shroud for the Archbishop (Sister Fidelma, #2)
  • Suffer Little Children (Sister Fidelma, #3)
  • The Subtle Serpent (Sister Fidelma, #4)
  • The Spider's Web (Sister Fidelma, #5)
  • Valley of the Shadow (Sister Fidelma, #6)
  • The Monk Who Vanished (Sister Fidelma, #7)
  • Act of Mercy (Sister Fidelma, #8)
  • Hemlock at Vespers (Sister Fidelma, #9)
  • Our Lady Of Darkness (Sister Fidelma, #10)
  • Smoke in the Wind (Sister Fidelma, #11)
Shroud for the Archbishop (Sister Fidelma, #2) The Subtle Serpent (Sister Fidelma, #4) Suffer Little Children (Sister Fidelma, #3) Act of Mercy (Sister Fidelma, #8) The Monk Who Vanished (Sister Fidelma, #7)

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