The eleventh Brother Cadfael mystery in which the war between Empress Maud and King Stephen (now a prisoner) heats up and involves the Bishop of Winchester as well. When two bedraggled Benedictine brothers arrive in Shrewsbury seeking a new home with the news that their abbey has been destroyed in the war, sheriff Hugh Berengar takes an interest, being the King's man in that part of the country. The book proceeds along with a mystery involving a young woman--once the betrothed of one of the newly-arrived Benedictines--who set out to join a nunnery 3 years previously but never arrived. A mystery without a dead body! Still, as the title says, it is indeed an excellent mystery, though I did remember the solution as I've read this book at least once before. Great entry in my favorite historical series of all time!
Doesn't center but provides a deeper glimpse into the life and times of 1141. These historical murder mysteries, are wonderful ways to taste the flavor of a time gone into the past. All so far are Well Done, some are gems beyond price, it pays to note and read them in order. While not necessary to do so, the threads that are real historical fact run thru these stories and make more sense, and you understand the sweep of the land better reading them in close order,
I have skipped around a volume or two out of order without ill effect.
An Excellent Mystery, a phrase taken from the Solemnization of Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer, is a great name for this episode in the Cadfael saga though there are no actual weddings here to solemnize.
Instead this story deals with a man who becomes betrothed to a much younger girl before departing on crusade. After gaining some fame while on crusade, the man is grievously injured. He breaks the betroathal and joins a Benedictine order as Brother Humilus. His intended bride decides to take the veil as well and journeys under escort to a distant city to do so.
Three years later and the civil war sees the man's abbey destroyed and Humilis, with a mute young brother Fidelis in tow, appears in Shrewsbury. A mystery develops when it's discovered that the man's fiance never made it to her intended abbey.
Again, as with so much of Ellis Peters's Cadfael saga the mystery is secondary to the picture we develop of life in that time. It's a bit like watching as a grandmother assembles a jigsaw puzzle from a box with no cover. While we're uncertain of the final picture, the pieces give their clues and the old woman is confident enough that we have no doubt that we'll see the final picture in the end and meanwhile we're content to appreciate the skill with which she assembles it.
This one was never adapted for television and that's probably a good thing. Suffice it to say, it's worth the time it takes to read the book, and in the company of Cadfael and a cast of regulars that we've grown to love, it's a satisfying and entertaining journey.
I've never met a Brother Cadfael book I didn't love!
"An Excellent Mystery" is truly an excellent mystery.
Cadfael is especially endearing to me, both as an astute detector of truth, but also as a man of God who is full of compassion and love of his fellow-men. He understands that, in this world, justice must be tempered with mercy, and that, in the next world, God will sort it all out.