The Spider’s Web by Peter Tremayne **
A murder mystery set in ancient Ireland, this is part of a series featuring super sleuth Sister Fidelma, an advocate of the courts. As a trained lawyer of sorts, she travels the countryside solving crimes, with her sidekick Brother Eadulf, who plays Watson to her Sherlock Holmes. In this outing, she sets out to investigate the murder of a village chieftain. The primary suspect is a young man named Moen, who is blind and deaf. It’s clear from the beginning that he has been framed, and much of the tension lies in Sister Fidelma’s effort to exonerate him, but how can a person who can’t speak testify in a court of law? It’s an interesting premise, and the author has clearly done a lot of research on the time period, but unfortunately, the book is weighed down by an excruciatingly dull prose style. Every character speaks as if he or she is reading from a textbook, and the whole thing is about as lively as a diorama in a history museum. Moen, who emerges as a kind of Helen Keller of the Middle Ages, is a fascinating character (and handsome!) but he’s only in a few scenes.