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From Audible.com: This is the eleventh chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury. In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war...and a mystery. The strangers tell how the strife bet From Audible.com: This is the eleventh chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury. In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war...and a mystery. The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephan has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt, and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely (and totally mute) must seek refuge at Shrewsury. And from the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses something deeper than their common vows binds these two good brothers. What the link is he can only guess...what it will lead to is beyond his imagining. But as Brother Humilis' health fails, and nothing can stop death's lengthening shade, Brother Cadfael faces a poignant test of his discretion and his beliefs as he unravels a secret so great it can destroy a life, a future, and a holy order.


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From Audible.com: This is the eleventh chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury. In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war...and a mystery. The strangers tell how the strife bet From Audible.com: This is the eleventh chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury. In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war...and a mystery. The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephan has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt, and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely (and totally mute) must seek refuge at Shrewsury. And from the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses something deeper than their common vows binds these two good brothers. What the link is he can only guess...what it will lead to is beyond his imagining. But as Brother Humilis' health fails, and nothing can stop death's lengthening shade, Brother Cadfael faces a poignant test of his discretion and his beliefs as he unravels a secret so great it can destroy a life, a future, and a holy order.

30 review for An Excellent Mystery

  1. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    Brother Cadfael is monk ensconced in the Monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, England of the 13th century. He is a former crusader who has found his peace as a botanist and herbalist for these Brothers. Yet, from time to time a crime comes his way and he uses his knowledge and unique skills to help solve it. "Cadfael’s warrior blood, long since abjured, had a way of coming to the boil when he heard steel in the offing. His chief uneasiness was that he could not be truly penitent ab Brother Cadfael is monk ensconced in the Monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, England of the 13th century. He is a former crusader who has found his peace as a botanist and herbalist for these Brothers. Yet, from time to time a crime comes his way and he uses his knowledge and unique skills to help solve it. "Cadfael’s warrior blood, long since abjured, had a way of coming to the boil when he heard steel in the offing. His chief uneasiness was that he could not be truly penitent about it. His king was not of this world, but in this world he could not help having a preference." For those that have been following Brother Cadfael this tale falls right into place. The monastery in Shrewsbury is now on the margins of the battle between King Stephen and the Empress Maud to rule England. The opening of this mystery has another monk, Brother Humilis, (a recent refugee from the “troubles”) seeking refuge at the Monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul. When Cadfael is called in to help treat his illness they find that they also share experience in the Crusades. "They were grown quite easy together, these two, and if both of them realised that the mere healing of a broken and festered wound was no sufficient cure for what ailed Humilis, they were both courteously silent on the subject, and took their moderate pleasure in what good they had achieved." The author takes us down another path of carefully attentive historical aspects, nuanced ethical concerns and delightful descriptions of people and places. Here is an example: "They gathered the purple-black Lammas plums next day, for they were just on the right edge of ripeness. Some would be eaten at once, fresh as they were, some Brother Petrus would boil down into a preserve thick and dark as cakes of poppy-seed, and some would be laid out on racks in the drying house to wrinkle and crystallise into gummy sweetness." This one book of the series may be unique for not having a murder to drive the plot. Yet Peters finds ways to maintain the tension. "“I see what needs to be done, but how to achieve it, God knows, I cannot see. Well, God’s vision is clearer than mine, he may both see a way out of this tangle and open my eyes to it when the time is ripe. There’s a path through every forest, and a safe passage somewhere through every marsh, it needs only the finding.”" Well, to be clear, I enjoy Cadfael immensely. His life is grounded in practicality. His faith is in his actions. He has a strong sense of morality that challenges both himself and others. Because he only bowed to his religious calling after decades of adulthood, he sees the world as it is through his years of experience as a man of action both in war and with the opposite sex. As an author of historical fiction, Peters delights me. Not much more I can say.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    It's fitting that the middle book of the Cadfael series is the most unique. It's the only book of the series in which no one is killed and the ubiquitous pair of young lovebirds is almost completely absent. Instead of a murder mystery, it's a story of passion, loyalty, justice, service, and devotion. The "excellent mystery" part doesn't kick in until a third to halfway through the book and isn't fully explained until the end. All of the characters are passionate about something, for good or ill, It's fitting that the middle book of the Cadfael series is the most unique. It's the only book of the series in which no one is killed and the ubiquitous pair of young lovebirds is almost completely absent. Instead of a murder mystery, it's a story of passion, loyalty, justice, service, and devotion. The "excellent mystery" part doesn't kick in until a third to halfway through the book and isn't fully explained until the end. All of the characters are passionate about something, for good or ill, and some more obvious in their passion than others. It wasn't until a scene late in the book of Nicholas single-mindedly seeking Hugh in the pouring rain that I realized he was displaying just as much passion as poor Brother Urien, just about very different things. The final act of the book is very moving and also brilliantly constructed, bringing each character's tangled thread to a conclusion. Happy for some, bittersweet for others, but positive and hopeful all around. And adroitly avoiding a huge scandal, too. Besides, any time mischievous Sister Magdalen (introduced in book 5, The Leper of Saint Giles) is involved, I'm all in! The theme of passion is reflected in the historical events of the time. King Stephen and his cousin Empress Maud were fighting a heated civil war for the crown. The book is set in 1141 and readers are direct and indirect witnesses to the burning of Winchester and Wherwell, the siege and route of Winchester, the Empress's retreat from Queen Mathilda's armies, and the capture of Robert of Gloucester. Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and papal legate, is mentioned often and appears in a brief scene with Nicholas.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vicky "phenkos"

    I first came across the Brother Cadfael chronicles as a teenager. I loved them at the time -- I read as many as I could get my hands on. I then put them out of my mind until very recently when I had a bit of time and wanted something familiar and re-assuring to keep me company. Brother Cadfael is re-assuring; a well-weathered monk with knowledge of the world, of battles and romantic love, a gentle man, whose knowledge of medicinal herbs and ailments makes him even more respectable. Approachable, I first came across the Brother Cadfael chronicles as a teenager. I loved them at the time -- I read as many as I could get my hands on. I then put them out of my mind until very recently when I had a bit of time and wanted something familiar and re-assuring to keep me company. Brother Cadfael is re-assuring; a well-weathered monk with knowledge of the world, of battles and romantic love, a gentle man, whose knowledge of medicinal herbs and ailments makes him even more respectable. Approachable, humble, but with wit and razor-sharp intelligence. What's not to like about Brother Cadfael? Many of the recurring characters of the series are like that. The Sheriff, Hugh Beringar, a man to be relied upon for his fine sense of justice and duty unencumbered by narrow-minded interpretations of the law. The Abbot, Brother Radulphus: a very capable leader of the monastic order, and a man without obvious faults: unwavering in his convictions, protector of the weak, a friend to Brother Cadfael, and keenly aware of the need for political shrewdness at a time of civil war (as that time was for England). And this is what I dislike about the series, the near-perfection of the main characters, the lack of any obvious faults or strife to weigh them down. Brother Cadfael's world comes across as an idealised world where goodness always wins because the main actors are fundamentally good. Of course, there is evil in this world too, there are thieves and murderers and those who betray their friends or their causes, but the fabric of the world is never irreparably damaged by their actions because justice is always restored at the end. Enthused as I was with the series in my adolescence, I now feel dissatisfied with Ellis Peter's world. And at the same time, I'm irresistibly drawn to it; its tranquility, peace, and predictability. Ellis Peters wrote to a recipe: a well-ordered world inhabited by decent human beings striving for the best. Her recipe plays on our desire for justice and goodness to emerge triumphant but it shoves under the carpet moral puzzles, quandaries and human weaknesses as well as the fact that justice is an elusive entity that is not always restored at the end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    A Brother Cadfael mystery novel is somehow so comforting a thing. This particular novel was a little short on Cadfael for me, and focused a touch too little on the life in the Abbey and more on the outside world, but still a sweet read. I solved the mystery fairly early on, but I think that might have been Peters’ intent. What was interesting was how Cadfael resolved a sticky situation. As they say, this is not rocket science. It isn’t the most profound writing ever, but it is loads of fun, which A Brother Cadfael mystery novel is somehow so comforting a thing. This particular novel was a little short on Cadfael for me, and focused a touch too little on the life in the Abbey and more on the outside world, but still a sweet read. I solved the mystery fairly early on, but I think that might have been Peters’ intent. What was interesting was how Cadfael resolved a sticky situation. As they say, this is not rocket science. It isn’t the most profound writing ever, but it is loads of fun, which can be useful in stressful times. Not my first Cadfael or my last.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    The war between vying rulers continues in this installment of the Brother Cadfael mystery series. After a fire has razed an abbey in Winchester, two monks straggle in, one obviously weak and injured. Brothers Humilis and Fidelis are given refuge, but it's not long before the search is on for Brother Humilis' former fiancee, who chose to become a nun after his crusades injury, which has rendered him unable to keep a manor nor a wife, released her from the agreement made when she was only five. Thi The war between vying rulers continues in this installment of the Brother Cadfael mystery series. After a fire has razed an abbey in Winchester, two monks straggle in, one obviously weak and injured. Brothers Humilis and Fidelis are given refuge, but it's not long before the search is on for Brother Humilis' former fiancee, who chose to become a nun after his crusades injury, which has rendered him unable to keep a manor nor a wife, released her from the agreement made when she was only five. This is one of the better Cadfael books, and if you have not yet read any, while you can pick up the series at any time, because each mystery is self-contained, it is best read in order as both the war and the characters are growing older, and if not that, at least read the first two books before any others.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    An Excellent Mystery, a phrase taken from the Solemnization of Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer, is a great name for this episode in the Cadfael saga though there are no actual weddings here to solemnize. Instead this story deals with a man who becomes betroathed to a much younger girl before departing on crusade. After gaining some fame while on crusade, the man is grievously injured. He breaks the betroathal and joins a Benedictine order as Brother Humilus. His intended bride decides to An Excellent Mystery, a phrase taken from the Solemnization of Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer, is a great name for this episode in the Cadfael saga though there are no actual weddings here to solemnize. Instead this story deals with a man who becomes betroathed to a much younger girl before departing on crusade. After gaining some fame while on crusade, the man is grievously injured. He breaks the betroathal and joins a Benedictine order as Brother Humilus. His intended bride decides to take the veil as well and journeys under escort to a distant city to do so. Three years later and the civil war sees the man's abbey destroyed and Humilis, with a mute young brother Fidelis in tow, appears in Shrewsbury. A mystery develops when it's discovered tha the man's fiance never made it to her intended abbey. Again, as with so much of Ellis Peters' Cadfael saga, the mystery is secondary to the picture we develop of life in that time. It's a bit like watching as a grandmother assembles a jigsaw puzzle from a box with no cover. While we're uncertain of the final picture, the pieces give their clues and the old woman is confident enough that we have no doubt that we'll see the final picture in the end and meanwhile we're content to appreciate the skill with which she assembles it. This one was never adapted for television and that's probably a good thing. Suffice it to say, it's worth the time it takes to read the book, and in the company of Cadfael and a cast of regulars that we've grown to love, it's a satisfying and entertaining journey.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Having now read An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters, I've completed 12 books in the Cadfael historical mystery series and as always, have found the story to be entertaining and engrossing. Cadfael is an ex-Crusader, now a Benedictine monk who acts as herbalist / sometimes medical assistant at the Benedictine monastery at Shrewsbury. This 11th book in the Cadfael takes place in 1141, during the continuing struggles for the English throne between Empress Maud and King Stephen. The battles themselv Having now read An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters, I've completed 12 books in the Cadfael historical mystery series and as always, have found the story to be entertaining and engrossing. Cadfael is an ex-Crusader, now a Benedictine monk who acts as herbalist / sometimes medical assistant at the Benedictine monastery at Shrewsbury. This 11th book in the Cadfael takes place in 1141, during the continuing struggles for the English throne between Empress Maud and King Stephen. The battles themselves take place a distance from Shrewsbury in this story but one of the results is to bring two monks seeking refuge from the battles around Winchester. Brothers Humilis and Fidelus arrive and are given sanctuary at the monastery. Humilis is another old Crusader, who was injured seriously in the Crusades. Fidelus is a mute who has attached himself to Humilis as his care taker. Humilis's injuries are aggravated by the journey to Shrewsbury and it's evident to Cadfael and the Edmund who is basically the monastery doctor, that Humilis has not long to live and they want only to keep him in comfort. Arriving also at the Monastry is Nicholas, a knight who has been participating in the battles, and was previously Humilis's squire. Due to his injuries, Humilis had called off an arranged marriage 3 years previously. Nicholas wishes Humilis's permission to ask for the lady's hand in marriage and it is granted. This is the crux of the story, with Nicholas's journey first to ask her hand in marriage and then when it's evident she has disappeared, purportedly to become a nun, to find her. It's an interesting story all-around. Cadfael plays a relatively minor role through the first part as it involves Nicholas's quest, but as the story builds, he plays a more important role, especially when it actually comes down to solving the mystery. There is a side-story involving some other brothers, which could have been left out, I think, but it doesn't hurt the story to have it there. The final twist, although I sort of had it figured out, was very interesting and different. One of my favorite Cadfaels so far and I'm glad I still have a few left on my book shelf to enjoy. (4 stars)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natalie aka Tannat

    3.5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fr.Bill M

    Ellis Peters' Cadfael novels are -- all of them -- outstandingly entertaining and edifying works. This one, however, is astounding in its beauty, mystery, and breath-taking conclusion. The phrase "excellent mystery" comes from a prayer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer order of service for marriage, and it is worth reading the whole prayer as a background for Peters' excellent mystery about that most excellent mystery: O God, who by thy mighty power hast made all things of nothing; who also (afte Ellis Peters' Cadfael novels are -- all of them -- outstandingly entertaining and edifying works. This one, however, is astounding in its beauty, mystery, and breath-taking conclusion. The phrase "excellent mystery" comes from a prayer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer order of service for marriage, and it is worth reading the whole prayer as a background for Peters' excellent mystery about that most excellent mystery: O God, who by thy mighty power hast made all things of nothing; who also (after other things set in order) didst appoint, that out of man (created after thine own image and similitude) woman should take her beginning; and, knitting them together, didst teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom thou by Matrimony hadst made one: O God, who hast consecrated the state of Matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church: Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that both this man may love his wife, according to thy Word, (as Christ did love his spouse the Church, who gave himself for it, loving and cherishing it even as his own flesh,) and also that this woman may be loving and amiable, faithful and obedient to her husband; and in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of holy and godly matrons. O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gwyn

    An Excellent Mystery is anything but. Over the course of the series, the plots have become increasing slow and the mystery itself has taken longer and longer to appear. While Cadfael books are not exactly action-packed, An Excellent Mystery positively dragged, and aside from a little odd behavior nothing mysterious even occurred until halfway through, and many of the clues were completely transparent. There are problems involving point-of-view, with information being revealed to reader that the An Excellent Mystery is anything but. Over the course of the series, the plots have become increasing slow and the mystery itself has taken longer and longer to appear. While Cadfael books are not exactly action-packed, An Excellent Mystery positively dragged, and aside from a little odd behavior nothing mysterious even occurred until halfway through, and many of the clues were completely transparent. There are problems involving point-of-view, with information being revealed to reader that the main characters could not possibly know--an unwelcome change from earlier books--and Cadfael appears very little and does very little. The thing that almost made me put An Excellent Mystery down--and it is the first Cadfael book I have even come close to putting down--was Brother Urian, who's subplot was disturbingly full of sexual harassment and homosexuality and added almost nothing to the plot except lots of long, awkward and repetitive monologs. Since the Cadfael books do not have to be read in order, I would suggest that all but die-hard fans skip this disappointing entry in the series.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Peters interesting variation on her usual plot, with refugees from a burned abbey, a formerly military man with a dreadful wound and his young helper, plus an ardent lover-from-afar on a search for a missing woman, and a look at the horrors of war. She takes on all the limitations on English women in Cadfael’s time, stressing ownership, value, etc while showing just how much real women differ from the frail creatures in need of care imagined by men. It’s really quite startling, the contrast betw Peters interesting variation on her usual plot, with refugees from a burned abbey, a formerly military man with a dreadful wound and his young helper, plus an ardent lover-from-afar on a search for a missing woman, and a look at the horrors of war. She takes on all the limitations on English women in Cadfael’s time, stressing ownership, value, etc while showing just how much real women differ from the frail creatures in need of care imagined by men. It’s really quite startling, the contrast between the few women we see in the text and the attitudes of even a Cadfael, usually our modern transplant in the twelfth century. I’m sure I’ve read this before, I spent so much of the story waiting for the big reveal. On audio through Hoopla from my public library.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cecily Felber

    A pair of monks, refugees from the destruction of their abbey in the fighting and destruction at Winchester, arrive at Shrewsbury, one obviously dying, the other, his devoted companion, mute. A noblewoman, supposedly having taken the veil three years ago, is revealed to be missing and may have been murdered for her wealth. A tormented man, recently joining the abbey, has brought his unhappy past with him. Brother Cadfael must unpick this tangled skein of secrets, devotion, inner conflict and hid A pair of monks, refugees from the destruction of their abbey in the fighting and destruction at Winchester, arrive at Shrewsbury, one obviously dying, the other, his devoted companion, mute. A noblewoman, supposedly having taken the veil three years ago, is revealed to be missing and may have been murdered for her wealth. A tormented man, recently joining the abbey, has brought his unhappy past with him. Brother Cadfael must unpick this tangled skein of secrets, devotion, inner conflict and hidden identities. Brother Cadfael (pronounced Cad-file) has definitely entered the ranks of great fiction detectives alongside Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey. But these stories are more than just murder mysteries in medieval drag. Ellis Peters actually lived in Shrewsbury, England, where Cadfael's monastery of St. Peter and Paul can still be visited. Her knowledge of the land and people and history permeates her work and gives her the incredible gift of transporting her reader into the past. You really do feel as though you are in that long-lost world lit only by fire, where it's quiet and green and life moves at a pace most people can be happy in. Cadfael is a suitably complex man. He's from Wales, but now living in England (though Wales is not very far away). He was once a soldier, but now he's a monk. He's lived a full life, now he wants to be quiet. But he also has a strong sense of right and justice and refuses to compromise on these things, even when it means getting himself in trouble. He's also picked up a lot of knowledge, especially of herbology and medicine and (somehow for the time) logical analysis that stands him in good stead as a solver of mysteries. Another charming step along the journey of Cadfael!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    “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 did Cadfael himself, to retire from the world int “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 did 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.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    dianne

    i am always impressed with Peters' ability to tangle language so it sounds medieval, and i had never thought of how the Normans may have irritated the Saxons just by being there in the decades following 1066, but overall this was a bit of a disappointment. i had solved the mystery half way through which made the rest sort of unexciting. The series is great - this book, only ok. i am always impressed with Peters' ability to tangle language so it sounds medieval, and i had never thought of how the Normans may have irritated the Saxons just by being there in the decades following 1066, but overall this was a bit of a disappointment. i had solved the mystery half way through which made the rest sort of unexciting. The series is great - this book, only ok.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    One of the best of this series. The writing is so heartfelt and (almost) glorious. The story is bittersweet, but with a satisfactory, even hopeful, ending. You will notice I've said nothing about the plot--it is almost impossible to talk about without spoilers. Each reader needs to discover the clues, the hints, the twists and turns on their own. I loved this one! One of the best of this series. The writing is so heartfelt and (almost) glorious. The story is bittersweet, but with a satisfactory, even hopeful, ending. You will notice I've said nothing about the plot--it is almost impossible to talk about without spoilers. Each reader needs to discover the clues, the hints, the twists and turns on their own. I loved this one!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    The eleventh book in the Brother Cadfael series [1], this book is different from much of the series in that it actually does not involve a murder at its heart. To be sure, the context of the book has a lot of death and destruction as a result of fighting around the city of Winchester, fighting that sends a grievously wounded Benedictine monk into the Abbey in Shrewsbury with his mute and devoted companion. Indeed, it is the dying man who prompts so much concern, as a younger fellow wishes to cou The eleventh book in the Brother Cadfael series [1], this book is different from much of the series in that it actually does not involve a murder at its heart. To be sure, the context of the book has a lot of death and destruction as a result of fighting around the city of Winchester, fighting that sends a grievously wounded Benedictine monk into the Abbey in Shrewsbury with his mute and devoted companion. Indeed, it is the dying man who prompts so much concern, as a younger fellow wishes to court the young woman the aged and infirm former crusader released from her engagement when he was wounded to such an extent that his death was sure, without hope of fathering children, and it is the fact that she has gone missing, with a trail cold for three years, that spurs this novel, with an elegant and deeply touching solution, that spurs on the plot of this novel. At its heart, this is a novel about devotion. A longtime servant is devoted to the well-being of a young lady, even if it risks him prison. A young woman devotedly serves her fiance, without his knowing, unwilling to be cast aside even if he cannot perform the duty of a husband. A young novice monk honorably protects an older monk from despair after feeling guilty over an obsessive attraction. A young knight is devoted to the young woman cast off by the dying knight, unwilling to rest until he has found her. Then there is the devotion of the Queen of England to her imprisoned husband, and the loyalty of the sheriff to that same king. All of these loyalties make for a complicated mixture of behavior that threatens the honor and reputation of Cadfael’s beloved Abbey and the Benedictine order as a whole, and it takes all of Cadfael’s discretion to make sure that everyone who knows what is going on has good enough reason to stay silent. Indeed, silence too is at the heart of this novel, whether that silence is done in order to avoid lying, or avoid causing harm and scandal. I could feel the pain of love all too deeply in this novel, which has a a grace that is truly deeply wounded and broken. Oh, that we could recognize such love in our own lives as this book has, that we could be so noble and risk so much, and be so richly rewarded for our pains. For all too often our hearts are wasted foolishly and we do not receive a good reward for all of our worries and anxieties. Yet here, in the realm of fiction, we can see that everything does turn out alright, and justly, with a kind authorial providence, even in the face of risks as grave as warfare, rape, and the ravages of nature, time, and injury. With so much going on, it is little wonder that this novel strikes so close to home. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    If your idea of an "excellent mystery" is one where the actual enigma isn't even presented until halfway through the book, then this is for you. If an "excellent mystery" is one in which about a third of the cast seem to know all about it, and spend a lot of the second half of the book giving each other meaningful glances and saying, "Since you know what you know, what will you do?" you'll enjoy it. The people who aren't in the know and should be, are told--off the page. If you know all about 12th If your idea of an "excellent mystery" is one where the actual enigma isn't even presented until halfway through the book, then this is for you. If an "excellent mystery" is one in which about a third of the cast seem to know all about it, and spend a lot of the second half of the book giving each other meaningful glances and saying, "Since you know what you know, what will you do?" you'll enjoy it. The people who aren't in the know and should be, are told--off the page. If you know all about 12th century English history, you won't mind the unessential historico-political detail that fills the first hundred pages or so. Yes, Peters manages to connect the story slightly to those events, but only slightly. She also crams most of the action into the last quarter of the book, which annoys me; I kept reading and reading and reading waiting for something to happen. I've read other Cadfael mysteries and they seemed better than this one. When the last 50 pages of a novel are actually a "teaser" for the author's next novel, it seems to me even the publisher knows the text needs some help. No wonder the second-hand bookshop wouldn't take them. (view spoiler)[ I've always wondered how these women who passed as men in those days managed to hide their periods, particularly in an all-male environments, but that's just me. (hide spoiler)]

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "Love in ignorance squanders what love, informed, crowds and overfills with tokens of eternity." No! No, no, no, no. Not again! An Excellent Mystery came very, very close to being a peircing, transcendental redefinition of love and a stoic address of the meaning of gender and its role in love. However, once again the androgenous, besotted young novice was revealed to be a girl in disguise. "'You would have destroyed all that Fidelis was, all that Fidelis did, fouled and muddied it into a byword.' "Love in ignorance squanders what love, informed, crowds and overfills with tokens of eternity." No! No, no, no, no. Not again! An Excellent Mystery came very, very close to being a peircing, transcendental redefinition of love and a stoic address of the meaning of gender and its role in love. However, once again the androgenous, besotted young novice was revealed to be a girl in disguise. "'You would have destroyed all that Fidelis was, all that Fidelis did, fouled and muddied it into a byword.'" I have discussed previously in my review of One Corpse Too Many that presentation as another gender which a person does not identify as causes profound psychological disruption, especially when this is prolonged over an indeterminate space of time. However, this is not dealt with. After three years as a young male monk, Julian Cruce simply puts on a dress and is restored an heiress looking for husband. Not cool. So what I'm going to do, for the rest of my review, is pretend that the central plot and mystery of this novel did not in fact happen and deal with Brother Fidelis as he presents himself throughout the entire story, all a beautiful mute boy. Because that way, the story is beautiful. Brother Fidelis and his mortally ill companion Brother Humilis are forced to flee the burning of the monastry of Hyde Mead during the siege of Winchester. "Bishop of Henry of Blois own city, to which his own hand had set alight." Empress Maud is trapped within a second siege line by King Stephen's tactically shrewd wife. "Now only give us the empress herself prisoner, and we shall have stalemate, and begin this whole struggle over again." There is some great tension and good lines about the fortitude of humanity concerning this development in the civil war, but I'm not going to talk about that, because there is an even more profound set of concepts being explored in the human aspects of the story. "'After a holocaust, and the fires of destruction, the throat is too dry to manage many words.'" Brother Humilis and Brother Fidelis both come to Shrewsbury to pledge their lives to their fellow monks at the monastry there with devotion and humbleness, despite the afflictions which both bear and compensate for in one another. Fidelis is mute. "'I had never considered how remote and strange a man could be who has no voice, and how hard it is to reach and touch him. I have caught myself talking of him to Brother Humilis over the lad's own head, and been ashamed. As if he had neither hearing nor wits.'" But his companion, for whom he effaces himself beyond his chosen silence, has a mortal disability to bear. He suffers from re-erruption of an old battle would which has savaged his groin and destroyed his genetalia. "Here ends his line, in a noble plant incapable of seed. But what worth is manhood, if this is not a man?" The older man maimed, functionally a eunuch, but with the authority of the great man he once was still within him. "One of the few who came clean and chivalrous out of a deformed and marred holy war." The young man silent, absent, prevented from asking comfort of anyone. And the love that binds them is heart-wrenching. The living corpse of an old crusader, still imbued with voice enough to protect this detached young soul, for which the younger carries his wasted body with the insight of his own sinews. I think I feel a tear in my eye. Peters also took up an issue which she has not yet addressed but the legacy of this institution shadows all-male establishments since the dawn of civilisation. "He did not snatch his hand away, but withdrew it very gently and kindly, and turned his fair head to look at Urien with such comprehension that the wound burned unbearably deep, corrosive with rage and shame." Both Brother Fidelis and Brother Rhun are brought together by the predatory interests of Brother Urien, a tormented man manipulating his own thoughts to hide from himself his desires to rape the two boys. Although this is resolved by Fidelis' "death" and rebirth as a woman, the psychology of it is compelling and realistic. As well as chilling. Through Rhun's voluble assistance of Fidelis from Urien's advances, Fidelis finds a connection with another soul once made lessor by disability. These two are closer in age, and there is the slightest suggestion that the all-consuming love of Fidelis for Humilis may yet shift to Rhun. Wouldn't that have just been the most beautiful thing you can imagine?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    So King Stephen (who is actually chained up in a dungeon) and Empress Maud are still at it, laying siege to each other and fighting. The town of Winchester takes quite a beating and the Abbey there is destroyed. Two brothers, Brother Humilus and Brother Fidelis come to Shrewsbury to become members of that order. And they bring with them a mystery. Before he became a monk, Brother Humilus was a knight in the crusades and when he returned he had gained a war injury that rendered him unable to fulfi So King Stephen (who is actually chained up in a dungeon) and Empress Maud are still at it, laying siege to each other and fighting. The town of Winchester takes quite a beating and the Abbey there is destroyed. Two brothers, Brother Humilus and Brother Fidelis come to Shrewsbury to become members of that order. And they bring with them a mystery. Before he became a monk, Brother Humilus was a knight in the crusades and when he returned he had gained a war injury that rendered him unable to fulfill husbandly duties, if you know what I mean. So he released his intended bride and joined an order. And life has gone on well for three years. But suddenly everyone wants to know what happened to his intended as she has disappeared. But don't you worry, Cadfael is on the case!! The mystery that I described to you doesn't even come up for about the first 50 pages. So let's just say that the pace of this book is SLOW. Very slow. I was curious, but it was so slow that I kept losing track of it. And Cadfael himself doesn't seem too interested in the outcome. And when the solution is revealed, EVERYBODY realizes it at the same time almost. So it seemed like nobody was really trying in the last three years while this girl has been disappeared. And everyone is really fine with the solution. Not me of course, which left me growling angrily at a book which looks weird in public. Definitely not one of her best.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Brother Cadfael is one of my favorite fictional characters. Thank goodness Ellis Peters has crafted many, many Cadfael novels for those of us who can't get enough of the Medieval monk. There is no need to detail the plot--what is most important is immersing yourself in Cadfael's world. It is a fascinating blend of brutal war (destroying villages and monasteries) and quiet life among the monks and their devotions. As a former soldier in the Crusades, Cadfael brings a worldly perspective to his mon Brother Cadfael is one of my favorite fictional characters. Thank goodness Ellis Peters has crafted many, many Cadfael novels for those of us who can't get enough of the Medieval monk. There is no need to detail the plot--what is most important is immersing yourself in Cadfael's world. It is a fascinating blend of brutal war (destroying villages and monasteries) and quiet life among the monks and their devotions. As a former soldier in the Crusades, Cadfael brings a worldly perspective to his monastic life and that is what adds zest to the novels. He is not a pious man judging others---he is a worldly man, who has loved (and still appreciates women) who has chosen to step into a life of service. His blend of quiet duty and continuing curiosity about life "outside the walls" is what adds zest and interest to the stories. And, if you don't think these books could be interesting, you might be tempted to watch the excellent PBS series (through DVD) starring Derrick Jacoby--he brings Cadfael to life and leaves you wanting to further your acquaintance with him.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Yibbie

    In the past, I have recommended Ellis Peter’s mysteries unreservedly. I have found them clean and very enjoyable. Oh, I didn’t agree with any of the theology and found the occasional mysticism a trifle convenient at times, but as medieval mysteries, I’ve liked them. Now comes the but. This book was different. It was still clean. There was no foul language. Questionable scenes were handled delicately. But… It still made me uncomfortable. One of the characters struggled with Sodomy. It was impli In the past, I have recommended Ellis Peter’s mysteries unreservedly. I have found them clean and very enjoyable. Oh, I didn’t agree with any of the theology and found the occasional mysticism a trifle convenient at times, but as medieval mysteries, I’ve liked them. Now comes the but. This book was different. It was still clean. There was no foul language. Questionable scenes were handled delicately. But… It still made me uncomfortable. One of the characters struggled with Sodomy. It was implied that it was wrong, but not addressed further. That character’s victory over it is an important part of the story, but the struggles he has throughout the book made for some very uncomfortable reading. Then the whole premise was also rather uncomfortable. (view spoiler)[ The fact that a woman lived for three years in a monastery is weird enough, but that she is almost constant contact with one of the men and he couldn’t figure it out was very strange indeed. The whole discussion about how binding a betrothal is was, I guess, supposed to set it up that they could be viewed as married. But they weren’t and nor were they viewed as such. Ellis made it clear that they weren’t scandalous, but it was still very uncomfortable. (hide spoiler)] I just can’t recommend this one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Prima Seadiva

    Audiobook, read pretty well with a very proper British accent. I have long heard about these mysteries in mediaeval times from others. Maybe I should have started in order but grabbed what was available at the library. I found it to be rather ho hum. The mystery was not particularly engaging nor was the mediaeval aspect. In this one Brother Cadfael did not even seem to be a main character. On the plus side, low violence level and the sonorous reader made it good for a bit of late night listening to Audiobook, read pretty well with a very proper British accent. I have long heard about these mysteries in mediaeval times from others. Maybe I should have started in order but grabbed what was available at the library. I found it to be rather ho hum. The mystery was not particularly engaging nor was the mediaeval aspect. In this one Brother Cadfael did not even seem to be a main character. On the plus side, low violence level and the sonorous reader made it good for a bit of late night listening to fall asleep to. Maybe I'll try another.

  23. 4 out of 5

    cloudyskye

    Not one dead body this time but two mysterious new arrivals to our Shrewsbury monastery and reports of siege and bloodshed in far away Winchester. I rather liked the story even though there wasn't a lot of action. Meeting characters I feel I know so well by now, armchair-travel to the middle ages still hasn't lost its charm. More! :) Not one dead body this time but two mysterious new arrivals to our Shrewsbury monastery and reports of siege and bloodshed in far away Winchester. I rather liked the story even though there wasn't a lot of action. Meeting characters I feel I know so well by now, armchair-travel to the middle ages still hasn't lost its charm. More! :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rose A

    There is something so comforting about how sure Cadfael stories are about life and death and religion and its mysteries. Really the only historical novels I feel really get what it must have been like. A good story, I was mentally barking up the wrong tree with the solution most of the book, which is always fun!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I haven't read Brother Cadfael in a long time! It was fun to step back into his world. Certainly, the mystery was a simple one, and the characters rather stereotyped, but the world is what matters here. Shrewsbury comes to life under the pen of Ellis Peters, and it is always a joy to visit. I haven't read Brother Cadfael in a long time! It was fun to step back into his world. Certainly, the mystery was a simple one, and the characters rather stereotyped, but the world is what matters here. Shrewsbury comes to life under the pen of Ellis Peters, and it is always a joy to visit.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leaflet

    indeed it was, with a nice twist at the end.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    The title says it all!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Saul

    The only Cadfael mystery I solved half-way through the book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katerina

    The eleventh of the Cadfael series book. This was a story of love, in contrast to the previous one that was a story of hate. A not so difficult mystery (I figured out the solution of the mystery by page 80), but nevertheless not a boring books, as it is still interesting to see how the secret will be revealed. This means that even if I knew what they will find out, I was still following the story, so as to see how the young hero will discover the truth and how God or luck (or Ellis Peters) will The eleventh of the Cadfael series book. This was a story of love, in contrast to the previous one that was a story of hate. A not so difficult mystery (I figured out the solution of the mystery by page 80), but nevertheless not a boring books, as it is still interesting to see how the secret will be revealed. This means that even if I knew what they will find out, I was still following the story, so as to see how the young hero will discover the truth and how God or luck (or Ellis Peters) will bring the reveleation so as for the people around the secret would not be harmed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    1st Recorded Reading: November 2003 I very much enjoyed this particular Brother Cadfael mystery, even though it is of a slightly different style than the previous books in the series; while there is a missing person, there is a distinct lack of young lovers for Brother Cadfael to bring together. On the other hand, it is, as the title states, An Excellent Mystery, and one that I enjoyed reading, although (perhaps because I read the book once before, in November 2003), I figured out the main plot p 1st Recorded Reading: November 2003 I very much enjoyed this particular Brother Cadfael mystery, even though it is of a slightly different style than the previous books in the series; while there is a missing person, there is a distinct lack of young lovers for Brother Cadfael to bring together. On the other hand, it is, as the title states, An Excellent Mystery, and one that I enjoyed reading, although (perhaps because I read the book once before, in November 2003), I figured out the main plot point much sooner than I might otherwise have done. It is August in the Year of our Lord 1141, and while the Empress Matilda has the castle of Stephen’s brother, Henry, Bishop of Winchester, under siege in Winchester, the forces under the Queen of England (also named Matilda, the wife of King Stephen, who was still held captive by the Empress’s forces, having been captured in the Battle of Lincoln earlier in the year) have the City of Winchester under siege. During the to and fro fighting around Winchester, two monks fleeing the destruction of the Priory of Hyde Mead make their way to Shrewsbury, to take refuge and to settle in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul. One is tall and gaunt, in his late forties, but emaciated and clearly not in the best of health, and the other is tall, not more than twenty, but mute, and attends faithfully upon the elder monk. It is soon discovered that the tall monk, Brother Humilis, had been Godfrid Marescot, who had gone to the Crusades some sixteen years before; when he returned some three years back, with a wound that he knew would be his death (and that also rendered him incapable of fathering children), he arranged to join the priory of Hyde Mead as a monk to live out the rest of his days. All Brother Humilis knows of his faithful shadow, Brother Fidelis, is that he joined the monastery when Humilis had just graduated from being a novice; being mute, Fidelis brought with him a written explanation of his desire to serve God and a small amount of money. The plot is complicated by one Brother Urien, who had joined the Abbey after having been scorned by an unfaithful wife; having something less than monkly calm as of yet, he begins to have lustful thoughts towards certain of the younger brothers (including Brother Fidelis). Further, Nicholas Harnage, the former squire of Brother Humilis (when he was still Godfrid Marescot), arrives at the Abbey to ask permission to court Julian Cruse; she had been affianced to Marescot before he went to the Crusades as a child, but when he returned home a ruined wreck of a man thirteen years later, he had deputized Harnage to go to her father’s manor to explain his inability to fulfill the marriage contract. Brother Humilis gives his blessing, and Harnage goes to court the girl. He finds that she went to join the convent of Wherwell, near Winchester, soon after the marriage contract was annulled. He discovers that the convent of Wherwell was destroyed when the forces of the Empress had tried to break out of the siege, and rides hot-foot to find what has become of her, and finds that she was never a member of the convent, and that no one has any clue where she might be. Meanwhile, Brother Humilis grows weaker each day, with his great wound breaking open when he makes any kind of unusual physical effort; Brother Cadfael does his best to keep body and soul together, and tries to make sense of the mystery of the disappearance of Julian Cruse. I did enjoy this book, and shall next move to the Twelfth Chronicle in the series.

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