PETERS/CADFAEL 11 EXCELLENT MYSTERY--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Peters books are a pleasure to read. She exhibits an elegant turn of phrase that. As someone else here has already remarked, she makes the "grim and gritty middle ages" sound like someplace you might actually want to live. And this is one of her better plots. I figured out what was going on about halfway through, but only because I got an unintentional hint from someone who had already read the book. Even so, it was a pleasure to watch the story unfold.
Elegant style and clever plotting aside, however, the story is a bit over-romanticized. For example, at one point Nicholas rides non-stop from Winchester to Shrewsbury, through both day and night and, finally, through a storm. He "must get his tale at once to the ears of authority" and he "dared not stop hating, or the remaining grief became more than he could stand." All this intense feeling over a girl he had only met once, three years earlier. Sorry if this makes me a chauvinist, but clearly this is a woman writing about how women wish men felt about them. This is the mystical ideal of chivalrous love. It isn't how a young man would really feel under such circumstances. This is typical of Peters and it doesn't really hurt the story, but it is a bit gushy and you can tell a woman wrote it. For a male reader, it's just a little over the top.
Peters is a charming writer. She paints a vivid, if somewhat romanticized, picture of life in the 1100's. Cadfael and the rest of her characters are congenial and her stories are light, but entertaining. The mysteries are sometimes a bit transparent, but not this one. This is one of her better ones. Cadfael fans will definitely enjoy it. Others should keep in mind that this is definitely a romantic mystery. Also, if you haven't read a Cadfael mystery before, you should consider starting at the beginning of the series. That said, I recommend "An Excellent Mystery" to those who like this type of story. It's better than most.
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