A reissue of the third chronicle of Brother Cadfael.
The more I read of this series, the better it gets. I recommend it to anyone.
Historically, I have not been much of a reader of mystery writers. The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael have made me a fan of Ellis Peters's writing. She does not write the one-sided characters that too often fill such books. She consistently surprises me with the depth and realistic humanity of her characters. This is seen most clearly in the "villain" of "Monk's Hood."
Peters's vision of medieval Shrewsbury becomes, like Cadfael and fellow monks, more interesting with each book. It is a perfectly conceived (or reconstructed) world in which to act out her tales.
I am pleased to see Brother Robert's return to a place of prominence within the storyline. He is the perfect personification of pomposity-a delightful foil for the straightforward Cadfael.
I give a heartfelt recommendation to "Monk's Hood" and the whole Cadfael series. Check it out.
The tale this time involves the mysterious poisoning of a guest of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, by means, what's more, of one of Brother Cadfael's own healing concoctions. With his own - as well as the Abbey's - honour at stake, Cadfael refuses to let matters lie, especially when the sheriff's somewhat over-zealous sergeant appears to be rather hastily leaping to the wrong conclusion as to who is responsible for the dire deed. To add further complications to the task before our mediaeval sleuth, Cadfael suddenly finds himself confined to the Abbey precincts by a more than usually overweening Prior Robert. As always, though, Cadfael's greater humility and wit (aided somewhat by divine providence) win out in the end, with our hero triumphing over arrogant authority of both secular and cloistered varieties.
Ellis Peters uses her own flawless wit and easy flowing prose to spin an enchanting and compulsive story around the central mystery, although the book is not really of the classic whodunnit mould. Her ingenious tale of family intrigue unfolds at a wonderfully leisurely pace, with the reader following a tantalising breadcrumb trail of snippets of information, released at just the right rate to ensure that the reader does not solve the mystery before Cadfael himself. Along the way, we learn something of the complex political and social webs common to Mediaeval life on the English/Welsh borders, as well as much more about the past life of the book's central character. As ever, attention to historical detail is meticulous.
Whether you read this book in sequence or not depends on how much of a purist you are. Reading later volumes before this one will give away something of the book's very ending, though not so much that it will in any way be spoiled. Reading this (or any later ones) before the first two would be a mistake, though, as that undermines some aspects of the first volumes' mysteries. There is no need to have read any earlier volumes, though, if you just want to pick this one up and enjoy it!
This episode has Cadefel defending the child of his childhood sweetheart after the poisoning of her new husband. We learn a bit more about Cadefel's background - both in Wales and as a Crusader. Hugh Beringer returns as the honest and smart deputy. I also rather liked Cadefel's new assistant, Mark - a monk with spunk. The action takes Cadefel to the Welsh borderlands and it's fun to see him in a new context.
Bottom-line: Not exactly a page-turner but a wonderful read to savor and enjoy over a couple of days.