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Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma #1)

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  3,662 Ratings  ·  260 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
Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Berkley (first published 1994)
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Joanne Hall Better. Cos it's English. okay, Irish :)
All joking aside, it's a light easy read, with a couple of good twists.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Matthew Hunter
Apr 21, 2012 Matthew Hunter rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
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
Barbara
Apr 29, 2008 Barbara rated it did not like it
Shelves: mysteries
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
Bonnie
Sep 28, 2007 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mary
Jan 19, 2009 Mary rated it did not like it
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
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
K.
Jul 27, 2013 K. rated it really liked it
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
Dawn
Jan 28, 2012 Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary
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
Julie
The writing style just killed this dead and I didn't finish. If you use a foreign language word, you really don't need to define it twice on two pages. YOU REALLY DON'T.
Janet McCord
Sep 14, 2014 Janet McCord rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Meghan
Jul 30, 2013 Meghan rated it did not like it
Bored. The book is repetitive, cliched and full of historical infodumps. I didn't make it through the first half. Too bad; I love mysteries and historicals, and especially love historical mysteries (Brother Cadfael is my comfort reading).
I got increasingly irritated with the characterization of the women-- beautiful genius, or thickset so must be a lesbian ...
Laura
Quite an enjoyable book set in seventh century Britain. I figured out the mystery fairly early but I enjoyed learning about sister Fidelma's world
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
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
Prince William Public Library System
Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma Mysteries is one of my favorite series; I have thoroughly enjoyed reading 22 of the 26 published to date! The stories are set in mid-seventh century A.D. Celtic Ireland during a time of great change and religious diversity. The highly intelligent Sister Fidelma is a dalaigh, or lawyer, of the ancient law courts of Ireland. This sharp-witted red-head is degreed to such a high level that even the High King of Ireland must answer to her!

Sister Fidelma, a member of t
...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
Catherine
Oct 05, 2011 Catherine rated it did not like it
This book was recommended to me by a friend who knows just how much I love historical fiction novels, especially the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but I barely made it through this.
I find it very difficult to read books that have been written by historians, as they cram in far too much information at the expense of the story itself. I love historical detail, but I like to see it spaced out sparingly, ye know? I stop giving a damn about the tale when it continually derails and falls into a lake.
"Ar
...more
Simon
Jul 21, 2016 Simon rated it it was ok
The writing is uniformly dreadful. Medieval characters ask suspects to "contact" them. One of the suspects is a gay stereotype of jaw-dropping offensiveness, sort of like a Stepin' Fetchit character wandering around in Roots. You can spot the murderer within the first 30 pages, so it is basically thud-thud-thud along until the Big Reveal. And while Absolution by Murder is set at the Synod of Whitby, early medieval scholars --- to say nothing of the Venerable Bede --- will be surprised at a coupl ...more
John Nebauer
Sister Fidelma, an Irish nun, travels with a party of coreligionists to Whitby Abbey. There, a Synod is to be held presided over by Oswy, Saxon King of Northumbria. At stake is which set of rites, Celtic or Roman, the kingdom will follow. At issue is the form of clerical tonsure and the dating of Easter. When the Abbess Étaín, the leading speaker for the Celtic faction, is murdered Fidelma must investigate the crime.

An advocate in the Irish Brehon Court, she is well suited for her task. But Osw
...more
Msjodi777
A bit predictable, but the story was good. Ok for a first book. Will try the second and probably the third to see if they get better. <><
Barbara M
Jan 27, 2016 Barbara M rated it really liked it
A Sister Fidelma Mystery. How do you pronounce Fidelma? In fact, that was the biggest problem, the pronunciation of the old Saxon and Irish names. This is a wonderful story, written by an expert on Irish history. However, it doesn't feel academic.

Tremayne sets the stage and presents the mystery. I don't try to figure out mysteries but, in this case I knew the killer before Fidelma revealed it. It doesn't matter, Tremayne (Peter Berresford Ellis) has done a wonderful job revealing a time period
...more
Alice
Jul 31, 2014 Alice rated it liked it
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
Jgrace
Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma, #1) by Peter Tremayne
Absolution by Murder - Peter Tremayne
Audio performance by Caroline Lennon
3.5 stars

This is the first of a medieval mystery series, set in Northumbria in A.D. 664. The king has convened a synod to debate the ultimate supremacy of the Roman or Celtic Christian church. There is much political and religious intrigue and treachery. The politics of the early church is especially interesting. There are multiple murders to be solved by the Celtic nun, Sister Fidelma.

This was a fascinating historical
...more
Salix
Jul 10, 2007 Salix rated it really liked it
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
Rita
Aug 06, 2007 Rita rated it did not like it
I was prepared to like this mystery in a historical setting [a genre I am predisposed to enjoy], having borrowed it from a friend who has a whole roomful of complete series of historical mysteries!

Although the story kept me reading, and I got some useful impression of 7th century Northumbria and Ireland, I was constantly irritated by the inept writing. Almost no sentence was well formed, whether because of infelicitous word choice, clumsy word order... OK, my editor's eye is overly picky, but th
...more
Nina
Aug 23, 2013 Nina rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Celia Lata
Jul 27, 2013 Celia Lata rated it it was ok
I'm re-reading this for a book club -- first read it some years ago, plus several others in the series. I read them for their interesting historical/sociological content concerning Ireland in the (European) Dark Ages, about which I knew next to nothing until I came across "How the Irish Saved Civilization", a first rate read by Thomas Cahill. The Fidelma books are a useful adjunct, but they are so poorly written that it's hard going slogging through them. Only what they reveal of the author's un ...more
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.
Erika
Aug 05, 2013 Erika rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
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
Apr 05, 2012 Sharla rated it it was ok
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.
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Cozy Mystery Corner : Sister Fidelma (Absolution by Murder) - Peter Tremayne 6 31 Apr 30, 2015 05:24PM  
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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. As Peter Tremayne, he ...more
More about Peter Tremayne...

Other Books in the Series

Sister Fidelma (1 - 10 of 29 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)

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