A fun read for me last week was A Rare Benedictine, by Ellis Peters. The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael is one of my favorite mystery series, so I was delighted to find this small volume in the library. For those of you that have never had the pleasure of meeting Brother Cadfael, he’s worth getting to know. A medieval Welsh monk, an herbalist at Shrewsbury, the Benedictine Abbey in Shropshire, and a shrewd observer of human nature, Brother Cadfael is quite a brilliant sleuth.
This is a book of three short stories that take place in time years before the series begins. In the introduction, Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) describes the creation of this character:
“Brother Cadfael sprang to life suddenly and unexpectedly when he was already approaching sixty, mature, experienced, fully armed and seventeen years tonsured. He emerged as the necessary protagonist when I had the idea of deriving a plot for a murder mystery from the true history of Shrewsbury Abbey in the twelfth century and needed the medieval equivalent of a detective, an observer and agent of justice in the centre of the action.”
I particularly enjoyed the first of the three stories because it was the story of how Cadfael gave up his often violent crusading and seafaring life and entered the monastery at Shrewsbury, which appears to be a much quieter, less violent life…except for the occasional puzzles of murder and mischief he must solve!
Another way to enjoy this series is to watch the BBC Mystery series on DVD, starring the wonderful Sir Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael. And for those of you that garden and love roses, there is a beautiful heirloom rose named “Brother Cadfael” that would be lovely in your garden. This is a very enjoyable reading series, and I highly recommend it.