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Excellent Mystery [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Ellis Peters
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 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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By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This Brother Cadfael mystery was absolutely riviting; I couldn't put it down. I know it sounds cliche, but true. I have been reading the books in order and this is the best one so far. I was totally engrossed in the plot and characters. The silent monk and the former nobleman turned monk were beautifully formed characters. The interplay between the repeating characters of the series was at its best in this novel. It just made me want to finish the series, so I could start all over again. I highly recommend any of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but feel they should be read in some sequence to understand the relationships between some of the characters - especially our dear Brother and Sheriff Hugh Beringer. They are one of the best detective pairings since Perry Mason and Paul Drake.
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars The best of an outstanding series Jan. 11 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this moving and dramatic story,Ellis Peters succeeds in doing something I thought was impossible in a mystery - and I am a mystery writer myself. I can't tell what it is without giving away the end. All I can say is that in addition to a story that intrigues from the first scene,characters and relationships you will never forget, and a fully-realized historical setting, there is an ending that will first thrill you and then make you say, "How did she do that???" And then you will want to read it all over again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the Brother Cadfael Mysteries Sept. 5 2000
I have to say that this is my favorite of the Chronicles. It has great characters, a riveting storyline, and the most beautiful picture of true, sacrificial love I have ever read. To say anymore would give away the ending. DO NOT skip ahead in this one or you will not get the full impact of the story. It is better to keep guessing. But read it a second time to get the details that you missed from not knowing the secret.
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