Thursday, March 5, 2009

And we think we have problems

Another Irish-themed post: a historical mystery series I've enjoyed lately is the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne, set in 6th-century Ireland. Sister Fidelma is the red-haired nun, dalaigh (roughly a cross between a judge and a detective in their court system), and sister of the king of Cashel. As she navigates these social circles, she's naturally in a position to take charge of some intriguing cases with the help of her sturdy Saxon friend, Brother Eadulf, decidedly the Watson to her Holmes. As a matter of fact, he gets a little too Watson-like in the comic film tradition; sometimes when he wants to sit and eat, I'm pretty much with him and against the annoying perfect Fidelma, but things balance out later in the series.

The series is well written and will interest Ireland buffs with its inclusion of mythology and real history. What lends it that dash of contemporary reference is the bitter strife between the more flexible Irish Christianity and the Roman Christianity attempting to take over. The Irish want to keep their law system, which rarely invokes any kind of death penalty, let the clergy marry, etc. The incoming Romans or Roman-trained clerics want to establish the Penitential system and enforce celibacy. Fidelma naturally provokes their wrath on an almost daily (and certainly bookly) basis. Although Ireland is portrayed as a little too utopian, particularly in contrast to Eadulf's rough Saxon ways (less washing, less law), the clash between fundamentalism and tolerance is an open commentary on our current dialogue, complete with divergent attitudes towards homosexuality.

3 comments:

cynicismsyndicate said...

sounds like a good read. mind if i borrow?

Jane said...

You mean Peter Tremayne, right?

Heidi said...

Yup. I keep calling him Alan, dunno why.