In September of 666 A.D., an aged monk and a set of relics disappear during the night from the Abbey of Imleach. The missing monk is a matter of great concern for the abbey. But the relics are a disaster of a much higher order. They are the priceless holy relics of St. Ailbe, the man who, in the fifth century, brought Christianity to the Irish kingdom of Muman, converted and baptized it's king, and founded the abbey. The relics themselves are the political symbol of the entire kingdom and their disappearance threatens to disrupt its continued peace and stability.
On a visit to the Abbey of Imleach, Sister Fidelma, sister to Colgu, the current King of Muman, and an advocate of the Brehon Courts, is asked to investigate. With the help of her friend and traveling companion, the Saxon monk Brother Eadulf, Fidelma begins to slowly unravel the mystery behind the twin disappearances. But there are dark forces at work, which will stop at nothing - even murder - to achieve their aims.
In his seventh Sister Fidelma novel, Tremayne offers up a juicy plot, the rich details of which will appeal to those with an appetite for medieval minutiae. Those reluctant to wade through turgid dialogue trumpeted by stilted characters, however, should forgo this foray into intrigues abroad in seventh-century Munster, Ireland, involving multiple murders and an energetic sleuth. The relics of St. Ailbe have disappeared from the monastery of Imleach, as has their keeper, Brother Mochta. Meanwhile, political strife amid Celtic kingdoms brews, and hostilities smolder between monks who follow the Roman rite and those loyal to the distinctive observances of early Irish Christianity. Into this charged arena steps Sister Fidelma, an advocate in the law courts, determined to untangle the web of events that threaten the kingdom. Dealings with a stealthy merchant and greedy innkeeper, a bevy of busy monks and a host of warriors show Fidelma to be a woman of righteous compassion, polite and proud in equal measure, adroit in her reasoning and fastidious in her appraisal of evidence, tough when necessary and tender, too. Because Fidelma remains cloaked in the heavy mantle of her many virtues, however, she never comes fully alive. Her oddly modern spiritual sensibilities--she's dismissive of the potent power of relics and given to outspoken interreligious proclamations regarding pagan practices--also jar. That's too bad: there are the bones of a compelling mystery here.