on 11 October 2002
These are three short stories about Cadfael before the novels begin, that is before 1143 when civil war raged through England. In the novels Cadfael is over 60 and his past is referred to lightly. In the first of these stories, 'A light on the Road', Cadfael is in his forties and newly returned to England, his soldiering days waning. It is during this adventure that Cadfael meets the Prior of The Abbey of St Peter and St Paul in Shrewsbury and makes his decision to join the Benedictines. The other two stories follow the themes we have come to expect from this mediaeval super sleuth.
A wonderful collection of three short stories (about 50 pages each) illustrating how the former crusader Cadfael came to become a monk, and three of the early mysteries he solved.
This review was posted for the Ulverscroft Large Print edition, and please note that in one important respect the Amazon editorial review above is not applicable to this version of the book. This large print edition has the merit of being easy to read, but lacks Clifford Harper's beautiful illustrations as found in some other editions of this book.
Includes an interesting author's introduction by Ellis Peters (or to use her real name, Edith Pargeter), and it provides brief glimpses into her favorite monastic's rare name, worldly career and personality.
Brother Cadfael's personal philosophy includes wry but compassionate acceptance of human foibles with our capacity for deception and wickedness. His devoted admirers will revel in any literary work which fills in the gaps about the delightful literary figure who has been called the "cowled crusader".
If you are a fan of Brother Cadfael, and have read all 20 of his full-length mysteries, you will be pleased to find one last chance to admire him in action. If you have not yet been introduced to Ellis Peters' medieval sleuth, this short story collection is one possible introduction, although the first of the full-length novels about him, "A Morbid Taste for Bones" might be an even better one.
on 25 October 2015
Like many I first came across Cadfael in the excellent T.V. series with one of my favourite actors, Sir Derek Jacobi, in the role of the warrior turned detective, monk. I love the T. V. programmes and watch the repeats when I can but however good they are they cannot compete with the written word. Nor do they. Now I have access on my Kindle I have started to read the chronicles in successive order. The first tale is nearly finished and I am about to gratify my thirst for Brother Cadfael by reading the concluding chapters of this well told story trousers is contributing to my insomnia like few other authors can do. My one regret is that I never found Cadfael twenty years ago. However, as they say, better late than never and as I am retired my insomnia is not a problem when I have such wonderful stories to while away the wee small hours.
on 8 July 2014
These three short stories from Ellis Peters are outstanding value at 59p. We learn how the roving soldier Cadfael becomes a monk, plus two mysteries set in Shrewsbury. Cadfael comes across as a much-travelled, experienced military man who has taken the cowl as the next step in his progression through life, and has no regrets for the secular life left behind. His knowledge of herbs has him working in the herbarium, but his understanding of men's failings has him solve two problems: the theft of a pair of candlestick for the Abbey's altar, and the loss of the Abbey's rental revenues in a sudden, violent action. The plots are extremely clever, and very true to nature, with sufficient potential culprits to make the identification of the final guilty person most satisfying, while Brother Cadfael's logic is impeccable.
The introductory notes from Ellis Peters are most satisfactory, and there can be little doubt that the Cadfael stories are what led to the huge number of historical murder mysteries which followed, in what is now recognised as an almost new popular genre.
The tone is gentle; the plots appear simple, but Brother Cadfael and his acquaintances in Shrewsbury are much more complex, and much more addictive than would at first appear likely.
on 8 February 2002
Incidentally, if you're looking for an audio edition, I recommend Stephen Thorne's unabridged narration over any other recording.
In 1120, Cadfael saw "A Light on the Road to Woodstock". Roger Mauduit's father deeded a manor to the abbey of Shrewsbury, which granted it back to him as a life tenant. The old man and Abbot Fulchered trusted one another, and were careless with the charter's actual wording. Now that both principals and all the witnesses have passed away, Roger has brought suit against the abbey that the tenancy is hereditary, and should remain with him, so Mauduit and the abbey's representative, Prior Heribert, are bringing the case before King Henry at Woodstock. Prior Heribert is armed with the abbey's correspondence with old man Mauduit as proof of intent.
Unfortunately, Mauduit knows his only hope is to keep Heribert from appearing in court, so the King will find for Mauduit in default. When 'footpads in the forest' kidnap Heribert, Cadfael (a Welsh armsman temporarily in Mauduit's employ) becomes suspicious. (This story also describes the first few stones that grew into the avalanche of the civil war between the Empress Maud (the King's daughter) and King Stephen.)
"The Price of Light" In 1135, Hamo FitzHamon, a harsh, self-indulgent lord of 2 manors, takes thought for his soul, when his sixtieth year greets him with a mild seizure. On the theory that the prayers of the brothers carry more weight with Heaven than those of ordinary recipients of charity, he has arrived at Shrewsbury for Christmas with his young wife, to conclude a charter arranging payment for the lighting of Mary's altar, and to gift the altar with 2 exquisite silver candlesticks (despite the custodian's opinion that the value of the candlesticks would be better sent to the almoner in this harsh winter). When the candlesticks disappear from the altar, half-blind Brother Jordan, who knows the value of light better than anyone, says that he has witnessed a miracle, of which he may not speak for 3 days.
"Eye Witness" A few days before the abbey's annual rents fall due, poor Brother Ambrose has fallen ill, and the abbey has had to hire a lay clerk to handle the paperwork. Master William, the abbey's steward, takes Ambrose's illness as almost a personal insult, but he's a complaining sort of man, whose worst cross to bear is his wild, continually-in-debt son. The day that Master William collects the rents, Madog of the Dead Boat fishes him out of the river - knocked out from behind, robbed, and thrown into the river for dead, but rescued just short of drowning. Cadfael, knowing that the church attic overlooks the scene of the attack, persuades old Rhodri the beggar (who sleeps up there) to help him bait a trap for the thief.
on 16 April 2016
I read Brother Cadfael in-between thrillers and murder-mysteries. It is almost having a mental rest from all the blood and gore of the the other thrillers. All the Brother Cadfael books are very well written and they are a real pleasure to read - I intend to read all Ellis Peters' books, eventually! Can certainly recommend to anyone who wants 'something different' and willing to 'travel back in time'. You will love and respect B.C. He would be a terrific friend! I never watched the television series - wish I had! Will certainly be looking out for it, but then I am a book reader, first and foremost.
on 26 February 2015
I've always been a Cadfael fan and already had the 20 Cadfael Chronicles books: the discovery of a 21st book was therefore a great and very enjoyable surprise. The first short story of the book is set just before Cadfael joins the Shrewsbury order of Benedictines, while the second and third are shortly after he joins. I absolutely loved it: would it be great if a 22nd book suddenly appeared.
Cadfael fans will not be disappointed with this book, which would also serve as good introduction to Cadfael to those who have not come across our Benedictine monk detective before..
on 28 February 2015
How Cadfael Got On The Road To Monking
Brother Cadfael is a rare thing, a Benedictine Monk true to his vows and his God yet he still hears the call of the outer world and cannot ignore that siren call, an ex-crusader who knows how to swing a sword when called upon to do so, yet able to heal wounds, tending the sick with concoctions, rare distillations and infusions all made with herbs grown and gathered by his hand.
Such is his skill he is charged with healing pilgrims who have the bad luck to fall all ill on the road. Sadly some of these people die as a result of foul play and this brings Cadfael in direct contact with the outside world and the opportunity to solve these criminal acts.
The other facet of Cadfael is his Welsh birth which sets him apart from the English, as back in the those times the Welsh were subject to different laws, so filtered through a different prism and possibly a more defiant stance in the face of the English. Cadfael a proud Welsh-man, a man who knows who he is, thinks he understands God might have some sort of purpose for him yet is no milk-sop preacher, this is a good man in a fight if thats what you need or want. He has pride in his Welsh roots and always seems to find cause to cross the border back to Wales, always to good purpose.
This was such a different time so we have to apply different rules, this was time of Kings and Queens doing battle for thrones, Welsh princes and Lordlings who ruled by birth-right, not quite the way it is done now.
These stories run from 1137 to 1145, during a deeply destructive period called the Anarchy. This long-running ruinous battle for the crown of England between King Stephen and Empress Maud almost laid waste to the land called Great Britain.
Cadfael has come to his calling relatively late in life after hard fighting in the middle east, fighting for King John’s cause. It was called the holy war and it was the crucible that forged warriors like Cadfael and helped lead him to his path. There followed a spell working for another Lord which leads him to his final cross-roads.
Out of that cross-roads comes the whole series of Cadfael books, spoken word, and television series and reader I have loved and cherished each and every one.
Sadly Ellis Peters died last year so there shall be no more of Brother Cadfael and his gentle unravellings of evil doing, for where ever men and women gather wrong-doing will occur; sooner or later.
on 23 June 2015
I really enjoy the Cadfael stories. Whilst these were fine, they were short. I knew when I bought the book that it was three short stories but I did not realise how I would miss really getting into the Cadfael frame of mind. It was quite nice to get a bit of information of Cadfael's earlier life.
on 18 October 2014
Reading this first tale of Cadfael and how he became a Benedictine monk was such a pleasure. I don't remember reading it before, and I loved the introduction of his detective instinct even before he got into the monastery. It completely fitted with the series, and that was interesting because Ellis Peters apparently wrote it late in the day. The other stories were enjoyable too.