In A.D. 670, an Irish merchant ship is attacked by a pirate vessel off the southern coast of the Breton peninsula. Merchad, the ship's captain, and Bressal, a prince from the Irish kingdom of Muman, are killed in cold blood after they have surrendered. Among the other passengers who manage to escape the slaughter are Fidelma of Cashel and her faithful companion, Brother Eadulf.
Once safely ashore, Fidelma—sister to the King of Muman and an advocate of the Brehon law courts—is determined to bring the killers to justice, not only because her training demands it but also because one of the victims was her cousin. The only clue to the killer's identity is the symbol of the dove on the attacking ship's sails, a clue that leads her on a dangerous quest to confront the man known as The Dove of Death.
An intriguing lead and a tricky puzzle propel Tremayne's 18th whodunit featuring seventh-century Irish legal advocate Sister Fidelma (after 2009's The Council of the Cursed). When pirates board the Barnacle Goose, the ship on which Fidelma and her husband, Eadulf, are sailing home after the previous book's events, the pirates' white-clothed, masked leader fatally stabs both the Goose's captain and a royal envoy who's Fidelma's cousin. Fidelma and Eadulf jump overboard to save their lives. A man in a small boat rescues the couple and takes them to the island of Hoedig, where Fidelma vows to devote her energies to identifying the murderer, a promise complicated by evidence that the brigands may be connected with a local nobleman. More murders and plenty of action follow on Hoedig. The ease with which Tremayne brings 670 C.E. Ireland to life more than makes up for a solution that's less clever than usual.