"Brother Cadfael had long been up before Prime, pricking out cabbage seedlings before the day was aired, and his thoughts were all on birth, growth, and fertility, not at all on graves and reliquaries and violent deaths...." Thus we meet Ellis Peters' inimitable monk in the initial episode of her long-running Brother Cadfael series. "A Morbid Taste for Bones" begins a series that has collected untold readers who feel that the series is also a crusade for themselves!
It is the twelfth century and throughout Britain, thoughts are on the civil war that is going on between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, twelve years of internecine struggle that, as civil wars are wont to do, has deeply divided the people.
And at the Benedictine monastery in Shrewsbury, Cadfael has settled down to a life of monastic devotion, following a career as a crusader to the Holy Land. His is a past that at first seems incongruent with the life of a monk, but God works His
wonders in many ways, and, as no sinner is beyond God's mercy, as Cadfael likes to say, he has now found his place on earth. "(He) himself found nothing strange in his wide-ranging career, and had forgotten nothing and regretted nothing. He saw no contradiction in the delight he had taken in battle and adventure, and the keen pleasure he now found in quietude."
He is a specialist in medicinal herbs and is in charge of the herbarium; he is a man of God gifted in logic and fair-play; he is a man of great understanding and compassion; and he is no fool. In "A Morbid Taste for Bones," Cadfael is assigned by his prior to lead a delegation to a small village in Wales to acquire the bones of their patron saint, Saint Winifred. As Cadfael was born in Wales and naturally speaks the language, he is the top choice of the priory. But retrieving the relics is no simple task, as Peters displays, and before long a murder is discovered. Cadfael's expertise comes in handy, as "his skills as a herbalist are matched by his prowess as a detective."
And with Peters' abilities as a Grade A novelist, the reader is kept spell-bound until the final pages of this medieval thriller, a story well-developed and strongly-paced. It is a literary journey well worth the price!
The author is the recipient of the Crime Writers' Association/Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for her Cadfael books, and has written a number of other works, including her Inspector Felse series.