A Rare Benedictine (by Ellis Peters)

I'm not a huge fan of mystery and crime novels, though I enjoy the occasional Agatha Christie. Nor am I really a fan of mediaeval history. However I do find myself, now and again, picking up one of the delightful Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters (pseudonym for Edith Pargeter) and becoming engrossed.

'A Rare Benedictine' features three medium-length stories featuring Brother Cadfael, the mediaeval Welsh monk with remarkably good observation skills, who solves a lot of mysteries.

The first story features his call to the monastery, returning to England after fighting in the Crusades. So it's et chronologically before all the other novels about him. There's nothing overtly religious in the story, despite Cadfael receiving his call to monastic life. In his gentle way he ensures that justice is done and problems solved, even at the start of his ministry.

The second story is about a wealthy man of sixty who decides to give some very expensive silver candlesticks to the Abbey as a form of penance. Then the candlesticks vanish. Cadfael quietly spots the person who took them, and ensures that the right thing happens. Motive is much more important to him than legalism, and I found myself entirely agreeing with him.

The third story is about Brother William, who collects the rents, and is attacked one day. There's lots of interesting observation in this story, which include characters such as William's rebellious son, a closed-faced new monk, and a young and enthusiastic clerk. Cadfael himself is shown as a soothing, healing person, who knows instinctively who to trust and who is a likely villain.

Well-written, interesting, and clever plots. Recommended, even if you don't think this genre would appeal to you.

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