Reading & Books

Books I Read in January 2022

I started in on the Brother Cadfael mysteries on a friend’s recommendation. I’d really enjoyed the Dame Frevisse mysteries last year, particularly for the history, so my friend said I should try out the Cadfael mysteries.

They have a bit in common – the Dame Frevisse mysteries feature a Benedictine nun living in an English convent in the late 1300s to early 1400s as the sleuth. The Brother Cadfael mysteries feature a Benedictine monk living in an English monastery in the mid-1100s as the sleuth. Both authors are big into historical accuracy.

The Cadfael mysteries were more… genteel, almost? Kind of placid, you sort of float through them. They’re good – I chewed right through them and quite enjoyed them, but Ellis Peters is a much more florid writer than Margaret Frazer, which makes her prose more distant. Takes a lot of the punch out of what’s going on, plotwise, to a modern reader. Frazer’s Frevisse mysteries were, well, I hesitate to say “grittier,” but yeah, sort of? Her prose was more brisk and active, which made it a lot easier to dig in and get invested in the story.

At any rate, I enjoyed the brother Cadfael mysteries, and apparently I’m not the only one. It seems like they’re pretty popular. Popular enough they got a BBC TV show back in the 80s. I watched half an episode a couple of weekends ago and it seemed like it might have been decent enough for a BBC mystery from the 80s? I didn’t care for it but somebody must’ve – it ran for a decent handful of seasons.

I saw that Ellis Peters had a second mystery series and I’d enjoyed the Cafael books enough to check out the “George Felse Mysteries,” but I had to give that series up. It wasn’t very good. Dry, dull, flowery, and couldn’t settle on a tone. Different books feature different members of the Felse family solving whatever conundrum’s popped up, so sometimes the book is a police procedural (which were decent) and sometimes it’s a boy’s spy adventure (which were not) and the last one I read was a woman’s overheated mid-life crisis (and that’s where I checked out).

I will note that the first Felse mystery, Fallen Into the Pit, was actually not bad, despite prose so densely florid that it was nearly unreadable in places. It happened in a smallish English village just after WWII and had a lot of suddenly-relevant-again things to say about Nazis.

  1. A Morbid Taste for Bones, Ellis Peters
  2. One Corpse Too Many, Ellis Peters
  3. Monk’s Hood, Ellis Peters
  4. Saint Peter’s Fair, Ellis Peters
  5. The Leper of Saint Giles, Ellis Peters
  6. The Virgin in the Ice, Ellis Peters
  7. The Sanctuary Sparrow, Ellis Peters
  8. The Devil’s Novice, Ellis Peters
  9. Dead Man’s Ransom, Ellis Peters
  10. The Pilgrim of Hate, Ellis Peters
  11. An Excellent Mystery, Ellis Peters
  12. The Raven in the Foregate, Ellis Peters
  13. The Rose Rent, Ellis Peters
  14. The Leper of Saint Giles, Ellis Peters
  15. The Confession of Brother Haluin, Ellis Peters
  16. The Heretic’s Apprentice, Ellis Peters
  17. The Potter’s Field, Ellis Peters
  18. The Summer of the Danes, Ellis Peters
  19. The Holy Thief, Ellis Peters
  20. Brother Cadfael’s Penance, Ellis Peters
  21. A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael, Ellis Peters
  22. Fallen Into The Pit, Ellis Peters
  23. Death and the Joyful Woman, Ellis Peters
  24. Flight of a Witch, Ellis Peters
  25. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs, Ellis Peters
  26. The Piper on the Mountain, Ellis Peters
  27. Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Heart, Ellis Peters
  28. The Grass Widow’s Tale, Ellis Peters