Sunday, January 25, 2009

50BC09 #1: The Leper's Bell

The Leper's Bell (Sister Fidelma Mysteries) The Leper's Bell by Peter Tremayne

rating: 3 of 5 stars

While the Sister Fidelma series does not have to be read in series order, I do recommend it. I clearly skipped some major biographical details between Leper's Bell and the last one I read, and it detached me from the main character more than if this has been my first Sister Fidelma book.

I'd also recommend ignoring the list of "Principal Characters" that prefaces the book, unless you want some clues very early on in the story. That said, Tremayne is masterful enough to throw a curve ball just when you think you've figured it out.

In a way, this particular book seems more a Brother Eadulf mystery than a Sister Fidelma mystery, as we are given much more insight into his character and he propels the plot forward. Fidelma is weakened by the tragic kidnapping of her own son, but Eadulf is at odds with seemingly just about everyone as he is an outsider, a Saxon. Tremayne tries to use these weaknesses to develop his characters, but there is something missing, particularly when it comes to Fidelma. We never actually see her during her time of mourning, but instead only hear of it from Eadulf. When she does appear, she is the stoic, logical Sister Fidelma of the series, but given the story line, she seems mismatched. She wonders (somewhat obtusely) about the fiery outbursts of Eadulf and has only glimmers of introspection at her own excessive reliance upon logic.

That aside, the book is full of intrigue, duplicity, and all the other essential ingredients of a good mystery. Readers familiar with the series may find the religious-political historical commentary a bit redundant, but in this book we get a better glimpse of Eadulf's theology, rather than Fidelma's. In that sense, this is one of the more engaging books in the series, as Brother Eadulf's religious views challenge some of Sister Fidelma's, making for much more interesting interaction between the characters.

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