cover image Valley of the Shadow: A Celtic Mystery

Valley of the Shadow: A Celtic Mystery

Peter Tremayne / Author Thomas Dunne Books $23.95 (288p) ISBN

Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf, her Saxon monk sidekick, are on their way to Gleann Geis, a remote pagan community in southwest Ireland, when they run across a horrible massacre: 33 young men have been ritually killed, their bodies laid out in a pattern peculiar to the ancient Druid faith. (As her fans know from the five novels in this well-researched series, most recently The Spider's Web, religious and political tensions simmer in seventh-century Ireland, though with its sophisticated legal system and fair treatment of women, it is one of Dark Age Europe's more civilized societies.) At Gleann Geis, the pair stumble on another murder, for which Sister Fidelma is arrested. The meek Eadulf has an easier time mounting a clever defense of his mentor than he does fending off the advances of the local chieftain's precocious 14-year-old niece. Released from confinement, Sister Fidelma is free to make full use of her sharp analytical powers to figure out who is behind the massacre and the seemingly unrelated murder of which she was unjustly accused. She does not disappoint. At the climax, the religieuse explains all, untangling a complex web of intrigue that moves from one surprising revelation to the next. While adept at plotting, Tremayne has an annoying habit of overusing adverbs. A door opens ""boisterously,"" a mouth droops ""pessimistically,"" while characters smile ""thinly,"" ""wanly,"" ""warmly,"" ""gravely,"" ""grimly,"" ""apologetically"" and ""maliciously."" In the future one hopes that the author--or his editor--will put as much faith in plain verbs as Sister Fidelma does in her God. (Mar.)