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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Behold a Pale Horse by Peter Tremayne

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: Northern Italy, A.D. 664

First Sentence: The elderly man was obviously a religieux.

This novel is the 22nd book in Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series.  In the chronology of the series, the action in this novel takes place immediately after The Shroud for the Archbishop.

Sister Fidelma is a religieux, essentially a nun.  In Ireland she is a highly trained and respected lawyer.  She is also a princess.  Her father was the king, and her brother is the heir apparent to the throne of Muman, in Ireland.

In this novel, Fidelma is returning to Ireland.  She had been in Rome.  There she solved a mystery with the help of a Saxon monk named Eadulf.

On her way home, her ship is damaged.  While she is waiting for another ship, Fidelma helps to save an elderly religieux from an attack.  While talking to the elderly religieux she discovers that a former tutor and mentor of hers is sick and near death in a nearby abbey.  Fidelma decides to go to the abbey to visit him.

Once at the abbey, Fidelma finds herself in an unsettling situation.  The local warlords are planning attacks.  The local clergy are threatening each other over competing religious beliefs.  In addition, several people, including her old tutor, warn her that there is evil in the abbey and advise her to leave.

When Fidelma's tutor dies, she knows that he has been murdered.  Fidelma begins to gather clues, however her investigation  is made difficult because Fidelma is just a visitor to the abbey, and has no authority to investigate.  In the end, six people have been slain.  Among them are a shepherd boy, his mother, a monk, and a prince's nurse.

Who is the murderer, and why is he killing his victims?  As the warlords plan their attacks, can Fidelma unravel the mystery in time to avoid more unnecessary deaths?

This mystery had me stumped.  I didn't know the identity of the culprit until the author revealed it.  This novel was a great read - a fine addition to a very good historical mystery series.

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