Cadfael: An Excellent Mystery – Ellis Peters

Brother Cadfael is a monk/detective, the books are set between 1135 and 1145 in the most beautiful area of Shrewsbury, England. The man himself is pragmatic, prone to getting himself into the thick of things, helping other people and making friends. This is the 11th book in the series. Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

In 1141 England is still torn by the civil strife caused by the struggle for the throne between King Stephen and the Empress Maud. Among the victims of the carnage is the Abbey of Hyde Meade, totally destroyed. Its brothers are scattered far and wide. Two seek refuge in Shrewsbury: Brother Humilis, who has abandoned his intended marriage and entered the clositer after crippling injuries received on the Crusade; and the mute Fidelis, his devoted attendant. All is well until Nicholas, once Humilis’ squire, resolves to pay court on his own account to the girl who was his lord’s affianced bride, and comes to ask his blessing on the suit. Then a latent tragedy becomes a present reality, and only the ever-indefatigable Brother Cadfael can distinguish between the innocent, the guilty and the victims foredoomed by the demands of honour, love, and fate.

As with all the Brother Cadfael books I loved it. Peters is good at showing us how they must have lived in that monastery and gives a good picture of life in those days. She gives me a good grounding in the etiquette of the period and informs on the political situation of the time. Hugh Beringar is the Sheriff of the area and becomes a very good friend of Cadfael. I suspect I could check up the history of the time and find it pretty accurate but I don’t want to find things are different and spoil the romance of the books for me.

Ellis Peters also writes under her real name of Edith Pargeter. She has written history and other historical fiction as well as translating Czech classics. Wouldn’t mind trying to read some of those translations, they could prove very interesting. I strong recommend reading the Cadfael series, the TV series with Derek Jacobi is okay, it does give some idea of the lay of the land but Jacobi doesn’t do a convincing job of Cadfael. Brother Cadfael was a solider and a sailor before he took vows and is described as having a “rolling gait” and I’d imagine he’d be pretty strong but despite doing a good job in every other part of portraying Cadfael he doesn’t seem to show the “rolling gait” or the strength. One scene he stopped someone from hitting another person and it’s not terribly convincing. I normally recommend seeing anything Jacobi has done and did an excellent job in the I, Claudius series. I’ll scribble a few words about those books and series one day after I’ve reviewed them.

Anyway, I heartily recommend reading Ellis Peters. The violence is gently portrayed as is every thing else that could cause a problem for younger readers, I have no hesitation in giving them to teenage devourers of historical fiction or crime fiction.