Absolution by Murder (One Sister Fidelma Mysteries) by Peter Tremayne
Shroud for the Arch Bishop (Two Sister Fidelma Mysteries) by Peter Tremayne
I have thoroughly enjoyed learning ancient history with my kids as we homeschool. Since I'm Irish, I really enjoyed the time we spent on the Celts and the early Irish Monks. I also love mysteries. So, to me, a mystery series taking place in the 7th century focusing on an Irish nun sounds like the perfect book. This series has been around for a long time, but I just recently discovered it.
In the first book, Absolution by Murder, we meet Sister Fidelma, an advocate for the Brehon court giving her investigative and judicial authority, and Brother Eadulf, a Roman monk from a family of magistrates. The King of Northumbria has called a conference to finally decide whether his kingdom with follow the Columba Liturgy or the Roman Liturgy. A murder take place. In order to ensure peace between both sides, Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf are ordered to investigate together. As the religious' chance to catch the killer dwindles, the chance of war grows rapidly.
I enjoyed the book. The author does a good job of helping readers understand the culture and politics of the period without tedium or complication. You don't need to be familiar with ancient history to enjoy this book. The plot is not overly complex, but the story is enjoyable. I hoped for better books as the series progressed.
In the second book, Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf again must pair up to solve a murder to prevent fighting between the Celtic and Roman Christian communities. In the previous book, the two religious sometimes verbally sparred or let fall a terse comment, but both took it with some patience and understanding. I felt in the second book, Sister Fidelma just came off like a condescending jerk and Brother Eadulf like her lapdog. I didn't see it as verbal sparring as it is once referred to in the book. I was quite disappointed.
There are over twenty books in this series. So, I imagine things must get better and the cattiness of Sister Fidelma is tempered. Many of the early books are out-of-print but are available as ebooks.