Next in my posts discussing the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery series is Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael Mysteries. I think this series is so terrific that I first discussed it way back in 2006. In that post I talked about the great TV series starring Sir Derek Jacobi. Upon rereading the first Cadfael mystery, A Morbid Case for Bones , first published in 1978, I remembered just how really good the books are and that they are equal to or even better than those great TV productions.
The books tell the story of Brother Cadfael who is a monk in the Benedictine Abbey at Shrewsbury in 12th century England. Brother Cadfael came to the order later in life after having participated in the Crusades. He is a healer and he spends much of his time tending to his herb garden – from which he concocts many healing salves, lotions and potions.
Brother Cadfael is a keen observer of life, and he has great empathy for people. Of course, his observational skills come in handy when the occasional murder comes his way. What he learned in his past life in the wars also comes in handy in that he is a veritable forensic specialist when it comes to examining crime scenes and bodies while searching for the little bits of evidence that help solve the mysteries.
In A Morbid Case for Bones we meet Brother Cadfael as the monks of Shrewsbury are about to send an expedition to a town on the other side of the Welsh border in order to bring back a Welsh saint’s bones to reside permanently in the Abbey. Brother Cadfael, being Welsh by birth, is chosen to go on the expedition to act as a translator.
Naturally, the folks in the little Welsh town where Saint Winifred’s remains are currently buried are not too keen to see her go. So, there is a conflict between the expedition’s leader, Prior Robert, an officious, aristocratic monk, and some of the leaders of the town. Before long, there is a body discovered, and it is left to Brother Cadfael to begin his detective work.
As good as the TV shows are (and they are very good), I think the books, as books often do, allow for more complicated secondary story lines as well as for greater depth of the characters, especially of the secondary characters. But, don’t expect that the books in this series are light summer reading! Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) was a terrific story teller, and I highly recommend these books. However, the books are full of the details of 12 century English/Welsh life, including the monastic life of the time, and the violent politics of the period. Very few Cozy Mysteries provide as much history and background information as these do!
If you’re interested in seeing more highlights of some of the most recommended or popular Cozy Mystery authors/series, visit the Most Popular & Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.