October 01, 2005

A morbid taste for bones/ Ellis Peters

This is the first of the 'Brother Cadfael' series by Ellis Peters, (pen name of Edith Pargeter). I remember staying up late to watch the television series, starring Sir Derek Jacobi.

NLB Call No.: PET
ISBN: 0751517496
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Set in A.D. 1100 England, the series centers around the main character, Brother Cadfael, who's an ex-soldier of the Crusades turned monk, with a talent for solving crimes.

The story starts with acquisition of the remains of Saint Winifred by the Abbey. It's actually a ploy by the ambitious head of the Abbey, Prior Robert, to consolidate his political power. The remains are in a remote Welsh village and the Welsh are not on friendly terms with the English. Negotiations turn sour when Prior Robert tried to bribe the defacto-representative of the villagers, Rhisiart. Soon after, Rhisiart was found murdered and that's where the story takes off.

The writing is beautiful. It reminded me why I liked to read when I was younger, which was partly to pick up choice words for use in English composition homework:
"'God resolves all given time,' said Cai philosophically and trudged away into the darknesg. And Cadfael returned along the path with the uncomfortable feeling that God, nevertheless, required help from men, and what he mostly got was hinderance."

"His chin was shaven clean, and all the bones of his face were as bold and elegant as his colouring was vivid, with russet brushings of sun on high cheekbones, and a red, audacious, self-willed mouth."

"Brother Cadfael let loose his bardic blood, and rejoiced silently. Not even because it was Prior Robert recoiling into marble rage under Welsh seige. Only because it was a Welsh voice that cried battle."

A very engaging read. The characters are believable and the story is made even more interesting with the sub-plots, like the romance between Sioned and the foreigner Engelard (who becomes the chief suspect); Brother John and the Welsh girl, Annest. What was interesting was that both girls are Welsh and the men are English, and the couples had cultural and language barriers to overcome.

Like all good crime novels, you are kept guessing as to who is the real murderer. You would like this if you also like historical fiction.

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