Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson
The Gospel of Mary isn't really a
mystery, though it follows Freeman's 2014 mystery St. Brigid's Bones and continues the story of the fictional
Dierdre, a Druidic bard who is also a nun in the monastic community of Kildare.
Readers interested in Celtic Ireland during its sixth-century transition from
paganism to Christianity may find it worth a read, mystery or not.
story begins with an elderly nun dying after she reaches
Kildare with an ancient manuscript in her possession. The big question is not
how she died, but whether the manuscript is genuine. Guarded through the
centuries by communities of Christian women who hid and preserved it, it's said
to be an autobiographical document dictated by Mary, the mother of Jesus. It had to be hidden to keep male church authorities from finding and destroying it. The latest of these hostile authorities is Dierdre's enemy, the Abbot of Armagh,
who hounded the elderly nun to her death.
Dierdre, a scholar of languages, is the only person at Kildare capable of translating
the document from Aramaic, the ancient Biblical language in which it was
written. To protect Kildare, the manuscript and herself, she travels across
Ireland with a single friend as her companion, knowing the Abbot's hired thugs
will be doing their best to track her down and destroy the document.
Though well researched from a historical perspective, The Gospel of Mary falls short of depicting characters who feel emotionally and psychologically real. For example, while on the run, Dierdre and her friend easily manage to write a smooth translation of the manuscript as havoc follows close on their heels. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the novel is the theology behind the fictional Gospel of Mary. Whether readers will find this a radical challenge to orthodox Christianity or a relatively conventional interpretation of it will depend on the readers' own beliefs. (2017, 188 pages including an Author's Note)More about The Gospel of Mary at Powell's Books or The Book Depository
Back to Novels of the Medieval Celts
Back to Directory of Book Reviews