Saturday, March 11, 2006

Review: The Subtle Serpent

Of the Sister Fidelma mysteries I've read, this is the only one I partially figured out before the end. Partially, mind you. I'm really bad about figuring these things out. I only ever figured out two of all the Agatha Christies. Anyhow, these are set in ancient Ireland (seventh century).

Fidelma has been summoned to an abby on a peninsula where a headless female corpse has been found in one of the wells. Tied to an arm is a birch wand marked in Ogham (an ancient Irish language). Across the straight from the abby is the magistate's fortress. The magistrate is hosting a group of young noblemen from competing kingdoms. Why are competitive kingdoms' princelings in the same small holding at the same time? How does the magistrate afford to live in such luxury?

At the abby, the abbess has managed to surround herself exclusively with young women. How did that happen & why are older women unwelcome? Are the local rumors true? How did a twenty year old come to hold the second in command position? Why are the abbess & the steward so openly hostile to Fidelma? Why is favoritism tolerated? And above all, who is the dead woman?

On the other hand, who abandoned the Gaulish merchant vessel close by the entrance to the straight? Where are the crew and the cargo? Why was Fidelma's friend Eadulf on board & where is he now?

I like Fidelma & her world. After reading one of these I always wonder what the world would be like now if certain cultures had grown & flourished instead of diminishing. Greece, Egypt & Rome are other places whose cultures I wonder about. How much more advanced would mankind be if only...
Mystery Review

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