Review: Penance of the Damned

Penance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the 27th book in the series, if you include the two short story collections. By this time, Fidelma has gained a reputation for being a sleuth. She has married Eadulf and has a growing son named Alchu. Fidelma has left the religious order but not the faith – something that she has to make that distinction to those who challenge. As a high ranking dalaigh, the sister of the king, and member of the Golden Torc, gone are the days when she has to remind people of her social and political rank.

Fidelma has made a lot of enemies and some of them are still around. For to understand this book’s backstory, you would have to read Atonement of Blood first. These enemies hold grudges and Fidelma knows it. For some, the feeling is mutual.

The other historical background is to understand how the Irish kingdoms were set up in the 7th century AD. There was an elected High Kingdom that sat at the top. Next were the five kingdoms. Sometimes those kingdoms were at war and sometimes at peace. If that wasn’t complicated enough, each of those kingdoms had sub-kingdoms and chieftains below them. The Ui Fidgente and the Osraige paid tribute to the King of Muman, which could cause tension since some wanted to be independent or switch allegiance to another kingdom.

However, just as Fidelma has made enemies, she has also made powerful friends too. In the past, Conri, warlord of the Ui Fidgente, did not like her due to their ethnic rivalries, but now he is one of her most powerful allies. If Fidelma needed a band of warriors for protection in that region, Conri often would be there to help.

I like this book because it kept me guessing all the way to the end. About 85% through the book, I suddenly realized who the real murderer and the person at the heart of the conspiracy. I just didn’t know why and what the evidence was. Tremayne likes to have women as the ultimate villain and often uses gender neutral language in his setup. Even in a male-dominated world, Irish civilization then was very progressive when it came to rights for women. They could inherit in their own right, go to school, lead religious communities, and even become queens. So if that was true, surely they could set in motion their own plots. I just hope I didn’t reveal too much.

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