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3.6 out of 5 stars
St. Peter's Fair (Unabridged)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The fourth Cadfael chronicle, published in 1981, takes place from July into August 1139. Cadfael is now fifty-nine years old and growing poppies in the monastery garden. He's been a monk for sixteen years and - given his life before and after joining the cloister - "he was virtually out of reach of surprise." Perhaps the poppies helped!

This time in the previous year, the town of Shrewsbury was under siege by King Stephen's forces. The new abbot refuses the town's request for financial assistance in helping it rebuild its community by donating part of the profits that the abbey would accrue from its annual fair. Whilst Hugh Beringar tells Cadfael that, "The word in the town is that this may be law, but it is not justice", the stage is set for some boisterous goings-on during the fair.

Ellis Peters took a different approach to the structure of this instalment by placing the chapters within sections headed `The Eve of the Fair', `The First Day of the Fair', `The Second Day of the Fair', `The Third Day of the Fair', and `After the Fair'. This provides a good structure for the reader as he or she follows events as each day unfolds. And come the end, we can see how what appeared at first as a purely local mystery, actually had implications in the politics of the nation. As Cadfael remarks, "Where there are two warring factions in a land ... men without scruples can turn controversy to gain."

I do not want to give the game away for those who have not read this book, but for those who have, I feel I should mention that Peters's logic seems false at the story's end: if Emma really wanted "to keep the wives unwidowed and the children still fathered" in the struggle between Stephen and Matilda, then with hindsight it would have been better to have handed over what her captor desired. I'm not sure either that the chimneys and solars as described would have been found in the Welsh Marches of the twelfth century.

But these are minor quibbles. This instalment in the series is as enjoyable as any other.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 September 2000
A change of style this time for Miss Pargeter but a great story (again) none the less! For once in a Cadfael novel, I had no idea who the murderer was but then again I feel that this murder mystery is exceptional!
The writing is first class (as usual!) and the story has the usual romantic sub-plot. It's basically about the local annual St. Peter's Fair (unsurprisingly) run by the local monastery. Each year, the stalls are hired out and the monastery gets a fee for each. The aggrieved locals feel that the monastery should make a contribution to the upkeep of the town of Shrewsbury where the previous year there was a siege and a lot of damage was done (see the previous novel, a corpse too many). The monastery (naturally) refuse since this would set a precedent and the law states they cannot do that.
This leads to bad feeling between the stallholders and the locals when after an appeal to get a contribution directly from them rather than pay the full amount to the monastery leads to a mini riot.
A Bristol merchant gets murdered and the ringleader of the mini riot is the prime suspect but not is all as it should be. If you want to know more - read it. I recommend it heartily!
Why don't I give it 5 stars I hear you ask? I feel that for a Cadfael novel, Cadfael was almost a spectator in the story. But if I didn't account for that, I'd give it a 5!
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on 4 May 2013
This is the fourth book by Ellis Peters in the ever so enjoyable Cadfael medieval murder mystery series.
Once again Brother Cadfael is called in to investigate when a rich merchant is murdered during the annual St Peter's fair in Shrewsbury. Was a quarrel between the monks of the Benedictine monastery and the townsfolk to blame or is the motive for murder more sinister? Another excellent book from Ellis Peters - the great thing about these books is with them being set in the twelfth century these novels don't age at all!
I will look forward to reading the rest of the novels to keep up with the adventures of Brother Cadfael.
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on 14 March 2011
For me to write a review on all the Peter Ellis books that I have bought would take all day. I thoroughly enjoyed every one of the Cadfael stories, wonderfully written, historically correct and I now own the complete collection.
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on 8 January 2015
All the Cadfael books were a Christmas present which are appreciated.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2010
I love Ellis Peter's Cadfael series of books, brought to life on T.V. by Derek Jacobi. She really can transport you back in time. Enjoy!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2009
I sometimes laugh when I read Ellis Peters. The books are generally well researched, with credible details of the twelfth century politics, society and everyday life. Then one of the characters declares something such as, "He set off for the barge a good quarter of an hour before Roger left." How exactly did they measure that in 1139?

Cadfael stories are essentially adult fairy tales. They are medieval whodunnits with a comfortably ambience, and if the characters are superficial at least the narrative is purposely dramatic, and rounded with a reassuring 'just-so' ending. I suspect the real twelfth-century Shrewsbury was a darker and less rational place than Peters would have us believe, but at least you know what to expect from her books. Undemanding comfort reading.
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