Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review of An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters

Ellis Peters usually writes great stories, with intrigue, excitement and plenty of surprises. Unfortunately, An Excellent Mystery, the eleventh chronicle of Brother Cadfael, has little of those. In fact, Cadfael is almost relegated to a secondary role while the minor characters play more important parts in this cozy mystery.

The civil war between Empress Maud and King Stephen has reached a stale mate as the king languishes as a prisoner of the empress. The queen, however, has forced Maud into retreat, holed up in Winchester. The queen’s forces are putting a stranglehold on the city to starve the empress out.

During the retreat, Maud’s forces torched religious communities, scattering the members across the country. Two such refugees arrive at the abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, an older mortally wounded brother and his young, comely, mute companion.

The elder Brother Humilis has accepted the fact that his days are numbered. Enter a squire, Nicholas, who served under Humilis before he took the cowl. Nicholas asks permission to request the hand of a woman Humilis was once betrothed to three years ago. Therein lies the mystery. Where is Julian Cruce? She hasn’t been seen or heard from since Humilis entered the faith.

The book follows Nichaolas has he trvales the English countryside retracing Julian’s steps on a trail three years cold.

When Cadfael unravels the mystery of the missing woman, the solution is rather anti-climatic. An Excellent Mystery certainly won’t discourage me from continuing the series, but it’s one that other readers can skip.

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