In January of 668 A.D., Fidelma of Cashel - sister to the king of Muman, an advocate of the Brehon law courts and a religieuse in the Celtic Church - is called to investigate the brutal murder of Abbess Faife and the mysterious disappearance of six young female religieuse accompanying her on a short pilgrimage away from her abbey. When Sister Fidelma and her husband, Brother Eadulf, arrive they find that there has been another death under mysterious circumstances, one of the senior scholars of the abbey has been bludgeoned to death. These two seemingly unrelated deaths - and the further mysteries of the trade ship lured to its doom on the rocky western shore of Ireland and the rumored figure of "The Master of Souls" wrecking havoc and raising rebellion - combine to create on the the most perplexing mysteries ever faced by the redoubtable Fidelma.
Set in A.D. 668, the pseudonymous Tremayne's pitch-perfect 16th mystery to feature Fidelma of Cashel (after 2005's The Leper's Bell) takes some diverting detours into politics, monastic life, the importance of bloodlines and the working of civil law vs. the emerging power of the Roman Catholic church. Fidelma, a d laigh (or advocate of the law courts), follows a difficult path in an effort to solve the murder of Abbess Faife of Fhearta Abbey and the abduction of six novices in the abbess's charge. The subsequent bludgeoning death of Cin ed, an elderly scholar in residence at the abbey, and the wrecking of a ship on the west Irish coast complicate her task. Once again, Tremayne, the author of many books on the ancient Celts under his real name of Peter Berresford Ellis, transports the reader to an unfamiliar time and place with a sure scholarly touch.