This book is actually quite good.
I must admit though, I had a hard time getting through it. In fact, I pretty much had to sit myself down and force myself to read through to the end. I’ve decided that has much more to do with me than the book itself (consequently my high rating). The truth is, I just don’t like mysteries, and now I know that even by setting the mystery in a fascinating time period, this doesn’t change. When I was younger, I used to read every Agatha Christi ‘Poirot’ story I could get my hands on, and I think I burned myself out. Most of the time I just don’t care about ‘whodunit’. This leaves the magnetism of the detective to carry the story, which recently just hasn’t been enough.
For people who love mysteries though, I think you will love this. Peters writes very well. She uses dialogue to bring her characters to life, and it’s great. I was surprised at how funny this book was. Cadfael is simply a GREAT character. Peters also captures the 1100s with insightful details into monasterial life. I think so many authors forget how powerful and important the church truly was during this time. This same attention to detail was used on the inner workings of a medieval Welsh village too. So many books just make out the villagers out to be ignorant clods, but Ellis is much more generous than that, giving everybody a more rounded feel. Everybody has a different agenda and a different motive, and Cadfael is able to work this out quite clearly and succinctly.
Maybe someday I will be in the mood to read another Cadfael book, but I think I’m going to skip historical mysteries for a while. I do believe this is the crème de la crème of historical mysteries though.