Book Review: An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters (Five Stars)


Book Review: An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters

Five Stars

“A duty once assumed is a duty to the end.”

My favorite Cadfael story. All the elements familiar to Peters’ readers–death, mystery, and sleuthing set amid a historic civil war, medieval culture, Welsh borderlands, and young love; but Peters mixes the ingredients a little differently this time.

“To me he has been all the sons I shall never father.”

Peters’ best investigation of what constitutes a life well lived. A man returns from the Crusades, as had Cadfael himself, to retire from the world into the Benedictine order. This noble is also ruined of body. As he fades, those around him seek to ease his earthly and emotional burdens, including the disappearance of his espoused bride three years previous.

“His spirit outgrows his body … there is no room for it in this fragile parcel of bones.”

Murder mysteries all involve death. Or do they? Yes, someone dies here, but was someone murdered three years previous? Why? Where? How? And most important by whom?

“Happiness … consists in small things, not in great.”

The Cadfael mysteries are set at the Benedictine monetary in Shrewsbury, England, during the twelfth century civil war called the Anarchy. An early battle occurs at Shrewsbury, convenient for Peters starting her series. When the action moves to Winchester, Peters contrives to bring Winchester to Cadfael, since he can’t go there.

“But what can a man do, or a woman either, but use what comes to hand?”

The Cadfael stories are best read in order, but if you have a formidable “to read” list, don’t miss this one.

“Nothing need ever be said where everything was known and understood.”