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Excellent Mystery [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Ellis Peters
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 5 2005
The England of 1141 is a land torn by civil strife. Seeking refuge in Shrewsbury are the badly-crippled Brother Humilis and the mute Fidelis, his devoted attendant. All is well until Nicholas, once Humilis' squire, resolves to pay court to the girl who was once 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 and the guilty.

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From Library Journal

The celebration of St. Winifred, in The Pilgrim of Hate, is usually a time of great rejoicing at the Benedictine abbey in Shrewsbury. Even in 1141, with the political factions of Empress Matilda and King Stephen engaged in bloody civil war, the faithful come to Shrewsbury to honor the Saint and pray for miracles. Unfortunately, the shadow of a distant murder hangs over the festival. Several weeks earlier in Winchester, a good and loyal knight was foully slain. The motive for the killing could have been either political or personal, and the murderer may be lurking among the pilgrims. It falls to Brother Cadfael to ferret out the killer. He is curious about two young men who are traveling together to fulfill a bizarre vow. Cadfael cannot rest until he uncovers their story. A colorful cast of well-drawn secondary characters adds richness and depth to a plot that examines joys of faith, as well as the evils of guilt and vengeance. An Excellent Mystery, also set in 1141, is a close sequel to Pilgrim of Hate. When the Benedictine abbey at Winchester is ravaged by fire, two Brothers of the order seek sanctuary at Shrewsbury. Brother Humilis was a famous knight crusader before a nearly fatal wound led to his retirement from the secular world. His mute companion, Brother Fidelis, serves as Humilis's caretaker and nurse. Young Fidelis is like a shadow, his inability to speak makes him the keeper of many secrets. Stephen Thorne, who reads both novels, has a feel for Peters's distinctive prose style, making her use of medieval phrasing and vocabulary sound genuine and natural rather than "historical." Thorne voices the large number of characters and accents in each book with precision, making each unique. Librarians with long-established audiobook collections should note that both of these titles were originally issued in 1993. These recent reissues have been packaged in flimsy and irritating cardboard boxes, which are difficult to open and almost impossible to close. They are decorative but will not be useful for library checkout. Recommended nevertheless, for public library collections where Peters and/or historical mysteries are popular. Barbara Rhodes, Northeast Texas Lib. Syst., Garland
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


A pleasing and unusual mixture of suspense and historical fiction. EVENING STANDARD --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Peters plays fair May 24 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the first Brother Cadfael mystery i've read. It was, perhaps, not the most fortuitous choice i could have made; certainly it was rather different from my expectation. Part of the difference can, of course, be explained by the fact that i have seen some four or five of the adaptations starring Derek Jacobi, so despite my best efforts i interpreted everything i read through that filter, seeing the characters in my mind according to their development in the television shows. The murder/mystery is well plotted out, though simple not quite simplistic, and nicely both hidden and revealed. I can point to the exact paragraph, sentence even, i was reading when i suddenly knew ~ not through anything revealed in that paragraph ~ the solution; the rest was mere reading to prove myself correct and see how Peters would handle the results of the revelation. Though this was not what i expected, i shall read another Cadfael book, just to learn a little more about him, and to see if i can't erase Jacobi's excellent interpretation from my mind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Mystery April 28 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It is the late summer of 1141. The war between King Stephen and Empress Maud to decide who will rule England continues. As the fighting rages, the abbey in Winchester is destroyed and two of the displaced monks find their way to the Abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Shrewsbury. Brother Humilis is a former crusader who is slowly dying of his wounds. He is accompanied by Brother Fidelis, a young mute who is devoted (for reasons unknown) to the care of Humilis. But their relationship is only one mystery. Another is what has happened to Julian Croce, a young woman fron a manor in the north of the shire who seems to have disappeared while on her way to join a convent near Winchester.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery and death April 30 2011
Open up almost any of Ellis Peters' Cadfael mysteries, and chances are that you'll find a romance circling around the heart of it -- good ones, bad ones, and occasionally weird ones. "An Excellent Mystery: The Eleventh Chronicle of Brother Cadfael" is a solid example of the third kind, centering on a powerful love affair, and the only downside is the occasional stretch of believability.

After the abbey at Winchester is burned down, two new monks arrive at Shrewsbury -- Brother Humilis, a famous ex-crusader, and Brother Fidelis, a mute young boy who follows him and cares for him. It also turns out that Humilis received some truly horrible wounds during the Crusades that are slowly killing him, and have left him basically castrated. Because of his injury, he ended his engagement to a rich young girl named Lady Julian and became a monk.

However, an old friend of his arrives at the abbey and asks for his blessing in wooing Julian... only to find that while her brother says she became a nun, there is no trace of her becoming one. Cadfael is brought into the investigation, with only some pieces of jewelry as the clues to where she has gone -- but it soon becomes clear that one of the monks is more than he appears.

This book ends with a marriage prayer, and honestly that isn't surprising. "An Excellent Mystery" revolves around marriage, thwarted love and how true love can be divorced from sex -- on one hand you have the deep love between Fidelis and Humilis, and on the other you have a bisexual monk's obsessions and with Rhun and Fidelis (which are all about physical attraction and rage, with no actual love).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 23 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This entire series is great. A true feel for what life must have been like in the 1100's in England. The mystery is well wrung out, the plot simple, but not obvious, the subplots, twists, and turns, make even the setups and side information interesting reading. It's a great introduction to Cadfeal and his surroundings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite in this series! Dec 20 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Ellis Peters will be missed. BUT! Now Brother Cadfael belongs to history, and the readers who love him so.
Start at the beginning and READ THIS SERIES! Miss Peters had an unparalleled gift for conjuring the most beautiful images with her words. I mean, how many people can write about the grim and gritty middle ages and almost make you want to live there? When Cadfael digs in his garden and breathes in the scent of his herbs, you are there, my friend.
Truly my favourite volume of this 20 book series. EP gives us two of the most amazing characters and a plot line that roves all over England and still keep you guessing. Treasure this book, you will read it over and over again.
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