Wednesday, 3 January 2001

Peter Tremayne: Act of Mercy (1999)

Edition: Headline, 2000
Review number: 703

The seventh Sister Fidelma mystery is to be the last, as far as I am concerned. I had hoped that with the setting moved away from Ireland the novel would be an improvement on the previous couple in the series, which had got into something of a rut. It is better, but not sufficiently so for me to continue with the series.

Fidelma sets sail for Santiago on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James. This was not the massively important place it would become in the later Middle Ages, after a vision had revealed the presence of the body of the saint, but there are apparently records of Irish pilgrims travelling there at the date when the series is set. (This is mentioned in the rather defensive foreword.) However, one of her fellow travellers goes overboard during a storm, and evidence comes to light to show that this was murder.

Characterisation is sketchy; the background is far too clean. (Tremayne's picture of seventh century Ireland seems to have been strongly influenced by the romanticised picture of Celtic history fashionable in the late nineteenth century as part of the Celtic Revival.) Act of Mercy is poorly written and the mystery is unconvincing.

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