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Old 06-12-2002, 10:23 AM
The Wrong Girl is offline
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Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael Books--anyone?

Has anyone else read these books? I started them a few years ago, got very enthusiastic about reading the whole series, and then had to go back to school in the fall, set them aside, and didn't get back to them until a few weeks ago.

And I'm so glad I did. I'm usually not a huge fan of mystery books, but I love these. They're about a monk named Brother Cadfael, who lives in the 1100s in Shrewsbury Abbey (a real place! you can go there and see where the story's set!) and solves mysteries. I've always adored Medieval literature, and learning about the time period, which is another reason I enjoy reading them so much. And Peters is a great storyteller. I love the characters she creates.

There's about 20 books in the series--they're very quick reading, and really entertaining. I'm midway through "The Leper of Saint Giles," which is the fifth book, and just wanted to see if anyone else has read/is reading these books.
Old 06-12-2002, 10:32 AM
Rib Eye is offline
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I've read them all and they are entertaining and moderately educational. The BBC also did a really good TV series starring Derek Jacobi in the title role. They are available on video and are usually faithful to the books.
Old 06-12-2002, 10:43 AM
RiverRunner is offline
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So far I've only read one. I keep meaning to go get some more, but I forget every time I'm in the bookstore. I have heard many good comments about the series that Rib Eye mentioned.

Right now I'm into Nero Wolfe books anyway; I got hooked once I started watching the A&E series.

Old 06-12-2002, 12:33 PM
istara is offline
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Yes - they are amazing.

She also writes some contemporary books which are equally as good. Some murder mysteries, some just mysteries. Well worth reading, all of them.
Old 06-12-2002, 02:06 PM
KarlGrenze is offline
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She also wrote, you may say...she died after publishing the 20th book in the series...wait, I think that last one was published after her death.

I have all of them, unfortunately back home.... I also have the book with 3 short stories of Cadfael, each one set in one of his 3 different stage (each one with a different abbot).

Oh, and it was the Derek Jacobi series that made me and my father search for Cadfael. I liked the episode Masterpiece Theater showed about the second or third book, about the siege of Shrewsbury....

The Leper of St. Giles is one of my favorites in the series, as is the one about the siege, and the one were Mark (then a deacon) goes with Cadfael to the Welsh shows Mark with a semi-romantic interest with a woman. He's a cute character.
Old 06-12-2002, 03:04 PM
rackensack is offline
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Oh, Ike . . . ? Yoo-hoo . . .

While we wait for him to show up, I'll say that I haven't actually "read" any of the Brother Cadfael novels, but I have had almost all of them read to me, as unabridged books-on-tape. A couple of years ago, I changed jobs and suddenly found myself with a daily commute of about an hour and a half (45 mins. each way) after driving 5-10 minutes from home to work for the previous five years or so. I had no CD player in the car, and exhausted the possibilities on local radio pretty quickly (I was driving in too late and returning too late for the better NPR stuff). I decided to see what the local library had available in books on tape, despite having been quite put off by the whole notion before that. I elected to focus on stuff that people had always told me I'd enjoy, but that I'd never found time for. I hit a home run first time out, with the Recorded Books edition of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, narrated by Patrick Tull. I've raved before on the board about Tull's incredibly good performances; here, I'll just say that I was completely hooked. I worked through the whole Aubrey-Maturin series as unabridged books on tape over the next eleven months or so. A couple of times, I had to wait for the next book in the series to be returned, so I looked for other Recorded Books titles with Patrick Tull as the narrator. Among them were most of the Brother Cadfael novels, which I'd also heard good things about, so I picked up The Raven in the Foregate, and soon found myself with a second series of twenty novels to get through. I haven't made it through all of them (the library didn't have some of them, and I've either been working from home or unemployed since last August) but I've done most of them. I'd listen to Patrick Tull reading the Manhattan phone book, but the stories themselves are pretty well crafted and the characters, even minor ones, are interesting and only rarely cariacatures or stereotypical (though Prior Robert isn't much more than that a lot of the time).

I borrowed the videotape of One Corpse Too Many from one of the local libraries just this past weekend. It was good, but not even close to as good as the book as read by Patrick Tull.
Old 06-12-2002, 03:27 PM
GKW is offline
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From Brother Cadfael's Penance

There was a long pause, while Philip looked at him with eyes wide and clear, and yet unreadable, so still that not a single hair on his head quivered. "A life, perhaps", he said then, very softly. "Another life in place of his to rot here solitary as he will rot."
"Take mine," said Cadfael.
Gotta' love that guy.
Old 06-12-2002, 05:42 PM
AveDementia is offline
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Location: Earth, 3rd planet in Sol,
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[slight hijack]

Have you ever heard of P.C. Doherty? He writes Medieval mysteries also. One of his main characters is Hugh Corbett, a clerk in the service of Edward I in the late 1200-early1300's.
The books are very good, IMO.
He bases some of his books on investigating historical events a few years after they happen- like Joan of Arc's death and the death of Edward the 2nd. He also had a series going based on the Canterbury tales, but I haven't gotten around to reading any of those. Nor did I know (until I just looked him up on Amazon to make sure the name was correct) that he has a few books set in ancient Egypt, also.
Hhmmmm, I've got some reading to do....

[end hijack]
Old 06-12-2002, 07:05 PM
jimmmy is offline
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Have you read Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden? Ellis Peters was an honest to goodness "herbalist" or so her publisher tells us. I am not even sure how one goes about qualifing as an "herbalist", but Elllis Peters apparently knew alot, more than most, about the properties of herbs.

BCHG is an illustrated guide that re-creates his garden & lets you in on some of Peters knowledge. It's not as cool as the mystery books but if you like herbs (or aspire to be an "herbalist" yourself) its kind of a neat read.
Old 06-12-2002, 07:06 PM
Krisfer the Cat is offline
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I have read most of the Brother Cadfael series. They are some of the best historicals out there. SHe had a feel for the 12th century in Britain that rings very authentic. I enjoyed them quite a bit.

Another great historical writer is Steven Saylor with his Gordianus the Finder series set in Ancient Rome. I highly recommend it.
Old 06-12-2002, 07:47 PM
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Saltire is offline
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I love the Cadfael mysteries. I haven't even read half of them yet, but I'm sure I'll get through them all soon (as the library gets them in to loan to me).

Yet another medieval mystery series is by Margaret Fraser (one pseudonym of Mary Monica Pulver, who has also written some enjoyable modern stuff). Her detective is a fourteenth-century English nun named Frevisse. One indication that Fraser and Peters have really captured their settings is that you can actually tell the difference between Cadfael and Frevisse's centuries.
Old 06-12-2002, 07:53 PM
Baker is offline
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I've read all the Cadfael books and enjoyed them enormously. Three of my favorites were The Potter's Field, The Rose Rent, and The Leper of St. Giles, but I thought all were good.
Old 06-12-2002, 08:09 PM
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dwyr is offline
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I got into the books after watching the series on PBS. I really like Derek Jacobi and picture him when I read. I've only done the first six I think.

In a related story, I just finished reading Sharon Kay Penman's "When Christ and his Saints Slept". It takes place in the twelfth century when Stephen and Maude fought over the English throne as is mentioned also in the Cadfael books. The sack of Shrewsbury by Stephen takes place in "One Corpse Too Many". Well, at one point in Penman's book a character is wounded by bandits. Another character wants to take him to the closest place to get help and mentions Shrewsbury where they have a monk with skill in herbs and healing. I found this oblique reference delightful.
Old 06-12-2002, 10:22 PM
Swede Hollow is offline
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I love the Cadfael series, both the books and the TV mini-series. The subtle humor and character relations are great (which the TV show mostly skips). I "read" most of them as books-on-tape. Patrick Tull has a great voice for Cadfael (and Maddog of the Deadboat), but I think Stephen Thorne is better with creating a different voice for more of the characters. It's a pitty the storyline didn't make it to the end of the English civil war. I always wondered how Cadfael (or Hugh Berringer[sp?]) would have been inserted into the peace process to make Maude's son the heir to King Stephen.
Old 06-12-2002, 10:44 PM
Idlewild is offline
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I am a fan of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series. I also enjoyed her modern mysteries, with Inspector George Felse as the detective. The thing that I love most about her works is that they're imbued with a great deal of love. Her detectives protect love (familial as well as romantic) as well as they protect justice.

Her brother, Peter Beresford Ellis, also wrote detective novels under the pen name Peter Tremayne. His heroine was Sister Fidelma, a medieval Irish nun. I don't find him as good a writer as Ellis Peters was, but they are good companions to his non-fiction histories of Ireland.
Old 06-12-2002, 10:55 PM
Michele in SoCal is offline
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Are the Brother Cadfael books a series or stand-alone stories with the same main character?

I guess what I'm asking is should I read them in publication order?
Old 06-12-2002, 11:21 PM
LurkMeister is offline
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It's been a while since I read them (and I'm not sure that I ever read the last few) but I would recommend reading them in publication order. While Ellis Peters does a good job of setting up backstory and exposition for each book, some of the books' plots refer to incidents from previous books, which would serve as "spoilers" if you read them out of sequence. I also found it interesting following the development of the various characters as the series progressed, as well as the unfolding of the actual historical background (which I was unaware of until I had read the books).
Old 06-13-2002, 02:27 AM
Tamealien is offline
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I'm also a big fan of the Cadfael books,. Another series I enjoyed, though it's Roman rather than medieval, are the Falco books by Lindsey Davis - up to about a dozen now. They are detective novels set in Vespasian's Rome, starring a hard bitten private eye with a chaotic private life, and they have a lot of humour in them.
Old 06-13-2002, 08:18 AM
KarlGrenze is offline
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Originally posted by Michele in SoCal
Are the Brother Cadfael books a series or stand-alone stories with the same main character?

I guess what I'm asking is should I read them in publication order?
They are a series. My first books in the series were in different order, since I had to depend on what the bookstore had, and wait for the others. The second half of the books was read in order.

Each one can stand alone by itself, but the characters in the later series are introduced and in many cases part of previous mysteries...reading them before or out of order may make you either confused or spoil parts of the first books in the series.

Specially the first book can be spoiled if you reach I think the tenth and nineteenth books.

The ten: The one when Rhyn or Rhun enters monastic life...Nineteenth: The flood takes away the monastery's relicary...
Old 06-13-2002, 10:08 AM
astorian is offline
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I've enjoyed several of the Cadfael books, but on the whole, I think the BBC TV series has been an improvement on the books.

Oddly enough, this has often proven the case in the mystery genre. While I often enjoyed Agatha Christie's mysteries, I never thought Hercule Poirot was a very interesting character. David Suchet MADE Poirot interesting and likeable, and gave the character more depth and nuance than Agatha Christie did.

Similarly, I think Derek Jacobi made Cadfael a more likeable and intriguing character than Ellis Peters did. In fact, Jacobi IMPROVED the books, for me! If I'd read the books before seeing Jacobi in the role, I wouldn't find Cadfael quite so fascinating. But because I now envision Jacobi when I read a Cadfael mystery, the books are more enjoyable.
Old 06-13-2002, 10:24 AM
The Wrong Girl is offline
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Yay! Other people like Brother Cadfael, too!

I've seen a couple of the BBC television series, and I agree that they definitely found the right person to portray Cadfael in Derek Jacobi. Did they make a show out of every single book? I've always wondered that.
Old 06-13-2002, 10:43 AM
Steve Wright is offline
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Location: Reading, UK
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Thirteen of the twenty books have been adapted for the television, to wit

One Corpse Too Many
The Sanctuary Sparrow
The Leper of St Giles
Monk's Hood
The Virgin in the Ice
The Devil's Novice
A Morbid Taste for Bones
The Rose Rent
St Peter's Fair
The Raven in the Foregate
The Holy Thief
The Potter's Field
The Pilgrim of Hate

(Transmitted in that order. Last three went out in 1998, so who knows? they may finish the series yet.)

(BTW, it's an ITV rather than a BBC series.)
Old 06-13-2002, 11:06 AM
Jodi is offline
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I very much enjoyed the Brother Cadfael series, and they are the type of books that I know I can pick back up again for an entertaining re-read.

I was very sorry to hear that Edith Parteger (a/k/a Ellis Peters) had died, because I knew that meant no more Brother Cadfael books.
Old 06-13-2002, 06:17 PM
KarlGrenze is offline
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Me too, Jodi, when I read the back book comments on the last book in the series...dammit, and just when that book had more loose ends!


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