Peter Tremayne Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Before turning to the mystery genre as Peter Tremayne, Peter Berresford Ellis had written dozens of books, primarily biographical and critical works under his own name or fiction (principally war and fantasy novels) under pseudonyms. Although respected as a scholar in England and Ireland, he did not win wide international popularity until he embarked on his Sister Fidelma series in 1993 with four short stories introducing the Irish nun.

The Fidelma stories introduced the author, as Peter Tremayne, to an international audience. The Fidelma series proved especially popular in the United States, where the International Sister Fidelma Society was established in 2001. The society publishes a magazine, The Brehon, about the author and Fidelma-related matters. In September, 2006, Féile Fidelma, the first international conference on the Sister Fidelma stories, was held at Cashel, Ireland.

The Sister Fidelma stories occupy a unique position in mystery writing with their seventh century Irish setting, detailed historical context, reflections of early Irish Christianity, and a protagonist who seems both historically credible and engagingly modern in her attitudes and attributes.

An occasional reviewer has complained that Tremayne idealizes early Celtic society, but most critical responses have been positive. On the whole, the historical dimensions of the stories have been viewed as accurate and important to the success of the series.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Chadwick, Nora. The Celts. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. A study of the history and culture of the Celts by one of the greatest Celtic scholars; originally published in 1971, the book is still considered a masterpiece of Celtic history. Useful for background information on the Sister Fidelma stories.

The International Sister Fidelma Society. http://sister Contains considerable information about Tremayne, Sister Fidelma, and the historical setting for the stories, as well as in-depth interviews.

Luehrs, Christiane W., and Robert B. Luehrs. “Peter Tremayne: Sister Fidelma and the Triumph of Truth.” In The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, edited by Ray B. Browne and Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2000. Examines the Sister Fidelma stories within their historical setting and is more critical of Tremayne than are most critics and reviewers, seeing him as too partisan an advocate for Celtic culture. Illustrations, indexed.

Mathews, Caitlín. The Elements of the Celtic Tradition. Boston: Element Books, 1991. Includes readable and succinct accounts of elements of Celtic culture, including many depicted in the Fidelma stories, such as the Ogham alphabet, Celtic Christianity, and the concept of the soul-friend. Illustrations, indexed.

Rielly, Edward J. “Sister Fidelma: A Woman for All Seasons.” The Brehon: Journal of the International Sister Fidelma Society 3, 2 (May 2004): 3-13. An analysis of Sister Fidelma as both a credible seventh century heroine and a twenty-first century woman.