Brother Cadfael

The 12th century Benedictine super-sleuth
by Ellis Peters

This page is under construction!!!

The Brother Cadfael Mysteries:

Books and "Mystery" PBS series



1. A Morbid Taste for Bones

1137: Ellis Peters' introduction to the murderous medieval world of Brother Cadfael...

In the remote Welsh mountain village of Gwytherin lies the grave of Saint Winifred. Now, in 1137, the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey has decided to aquire the sacred remains for his Benedictine order. Native Welshman Brother Cadfael is sent on the expedition to translate and finds the rustic villagers of Gwytherin passionately divided by the Benetictine's offer for the saint's relics. Canny, wise, and all too worldly, he isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder.

The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself held the bow. Brother Cadfael knows a carnal hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice... where the wages of sin may be scandal or Cadfael's own ruin.




2. One Corpse Too Many

1138(summer): In the summer of 1138, war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud takes Brother Cadfael from the quiet world of his garden into the battlefield of passions, deceptions, and death. Not far from the safety of the abbey walls, Shrewsbury Castle falls, leaving its ninetyfour defenders loyal to the Empress to hang as traitors. With a heavy heart, Brother Cadfael agrees to bury the dead, only to make a grisly discovery: ninetyfive dead bodies lie in a row -- the extra victim has been cruelly strangled, not hanged.

This ingenious way to dispose of a corpse tells Brother Cadfael that the killer is both clever and ruthless. But one death among so many seems unimportant to all but the good Benedictine. He vows to find the truth behind the disparate clues: a girl in boy's clothing, a missing treasure, and a single broken flower... the tiny bit of evidence that Cadfael believes can most expose a murderer's black heart.




3. Monk's Hood

1138(December): Gervase Bonel, with his wife and servants, is a guest at the Shrewsbury Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul when he is suddenly taken ill. Luckily, the abbey boasts the services of the shrewd and kindly Brother Cadfael, a skilled herbalist. Cadfael hurries to the man's bedside, only to be confronted by two very different surprises.

In Master Bonel's wife, the good monk recognizes Richildis, whom he loved many years ago, before he took his vows. And Master Bonel himself has been fatally poisoned by a dose of deadly monk's hood oil from Cadfael's own laboratory.

The Sheriff is convinced that the murderer is Richildis' son, Edwin, who had reasons aplenty to hate his stepfather. But Cadfael, guided in part by his tender concern for a woman to whom he was once betrothed, is certain of her son's innocence. Using his knowledge of both herbs and the human heart, Cadfael deciphers a deadly recipe for murder.






4. St Peter's Fair

1139(summer): St. Peter's Fair is a grand, festive event, attracting merchants from across England and beyond. There is a pause in the civil war racking the country in the summer of 1139, and the fair promises to bring some much-needed gaiety to the town of Shrewsbury.

Until, that is, the body of a wealthy merchant is found murdered in the river Severn. Was Thomas of Bristol the victim of murderous thieves? And, if so, why were his valuables abandoned nearby?

Brother Cadfael, that shrewd but kindly monk, offers to help the merchant's lovely niece Emma. But while he is searching for the killer, Thomas of Bristol's wares are ransacked and two more men are murdered. Emma almost certainly knows more than she is telling -- as others will soon realize. Cadfael desperately races to save the young girl, knowing that in a country at war with itself, betrayal can come from any direction -- and even good intentions can kill.






5. The Leper of Saint Giles

1139(October): Setting out for the Saint Giles leper colony outside Shrewsbury, Brother Cadfael has more pressing matters on his mind than the grand wedding coming to his abbey. Yet as fate would have it, Cadfael arrives at Saint Giles just as the nuptial party passes the colony's gates.

He sees the fragile bride looking like a prisoner between her two stern guardians and the bridegroom, an arrogant, fleshy aristocrat old enough to be her grandfather. And he quickly discerns this union may be more damned than blessed. Indeed, a savage murder will interupt the May-December marriage and leave Brother Cadfael with a dark, terrible mystery to solve. For the key to the killing -- and a secret -- are hid among the lepers of Saint Giles. Now Brother Cadfael's skills must ferret out a sickness, not of the body, but of a twisted soul -- in the fifth Brother Cadfael Chronicle, a work that displays Ellis Peter's special genius at her best.






6. The Virgin in th Ice

1139(winter): The winter of 1139 will disrupt Brother Cadfael's tranquil life in Shrewsbury with the most disturbing of events. Raging civil war has sent refugees fleeing north from Worcester. Among them are two orphans from a noble family, a boy of thirteen and an eighteen-year-old girl of great beauty, and their companion, a young Benedictine nun. But the trio, never reaching Shrewsbury, have disappeared somewhere in the wild countyside.

Cadfael feels afraid for these three lost lambs, but another call for help sends him to the Church of Saint Mary. A wounded monk, found naked and bleeding by the roadside, will surely die without Cadfael's healing arts. Why this holy man has been attacked and what fevered ravings reveal soon give Brother Cadfael a clue to the fate of the missing travelers. Now Cadfael sets out on a dangerous quest to find them. The road will lead him to a chill and terrible murder and a tale of passion gone awry. And at journey's end awaits a vision of what is best, and worst, in humankind... in Ellis Peter's most stunning depiction yet of war and love.






7. The Sanctuary Sparrow

1140(spring): In the gentle spring of 1140, the midnight matins at the Benedictine abbey suddenly reverberate with an unholy sound -- a hunt in full cry. Pursued by a drunken mob, the quarry is running for its life. When the frantic creature bursts into the nave to claim sanctuary, Brother Cadfael finds himself fighting off armed townsmen to save a terrified young man.

Accused of robbery and murder is Liliwin, a wandering minstrel who performed at the wedding of a local goldsmith's son. The cold light of morning, however, will show his supposed victim, the miserly craftsman, still lives, although a strongbox lies empty. Brother Cadfael believes Liliwin is innocent, but finding the truth and the treasure before Liliwin's respite in sanctuary runs out may uncover a deadlier sin than thievery -- a desperate love that nothing, not even the threat of hanging can stop.




8. The Devil's Novice

1140(September): Outside the pale of the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in September of the year of our Lord 1140, a priestly emissary for King Stephen has been reported missing. But inside the pale, what troubles Brother Cadfael is a proud, secretive nineteen-year-old novice.

Brother Cadfael has never seen two men more estranged than the Lord of Aspley and Meriet, the son he coldly delivers to the abbey to begin a religious vocation. Meriet, meek by day, is so racked by dreams at night that his howls earn him tha nickname the Devil's Novice. Shunned and feared, Meriet is soon linked to the missing priest's dreadful fate. Only Brother Cadfael believes in Meriet's innocence, and only the good sleuth can uncover the truth before a boy's pure passion, not evil intent, leads a novice to the noose.




9. Dead Man's Ransom

1141(February): In February of the year of Our Lord 1141, men march home from war to Shrewsbury, but the captured Sheriff Gilbert Prestcote is not among them. Elis, a young Welsh prisoner, is, and he is delivered to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul to begin a tale that will test Brother Cadfael's sense of justice... and his heart.

By good fortune, it seems, the prisoner can be exchanged as Sheriff Prestcote's ransom. What none expects is that good-natured Elis is struck down -- by cupid's arrow. The sheriff's own daughter holds him in thrall, and she, too, is blind with passion. Now regaining her father means losing her lover. But then the sheriff, ailing and frail, is brought to the abbey's infirmary -- and murdered there. Suspicion falls on the prisoner, who has only his Welsh honor to gain Brother Cadfael's help. And Cadfael gives it, not knowing the truth will be a trial for his own soul...




10. The Pilgrim of Hate

1141(May): In the year of our Lord 1141, civil war over England's throne leaves a legacy of violence -- and the murder of a knight dear to Brother Cadfael. And with gentle bud-strewn May, a flood of pilgrims comes to the celebration of Saint Winifred at the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, carrying with it many strange souls... and perhaps the knight's killer.

Brother Cadfael's shrewd eyes see all: the prosperous merchant who rings false, and angelic lame boy, his beautiful dowerless sister, and two wealthy pentents. In the name of justice Cadfael decides to uncover the strange and twisted tale that accompanies these travelers. Instead he unearths a quest for vengeance, witnesses a miracle, and finds himself on a razor's edge between death or the absolution of love.




11. An Excellent Mystery

1141(August): In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war -- and a mystery.

The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephen has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt, and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely -- and totally mute -- must seek refuge at Shrewsbury. And from the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses something deeper than their common vows binds these two good brothers. What the link is he can only guess... what it will lead to is beyond his imagining. But as Brother Humilis's health fails -- and nothing can stop death's lengthening shade -- Brother Cadfael faces a poignant test of his discretion and his beliefs as he unravels a secret so great it can destroy a life, a future, and a holy order...




12. The Raven in the Foregate

1141(December): In a mild December in the year of our Lord 1141, a new priest comes to the parishioners of the Foregate outside the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Father Ailnoth brings with him a housekeeper and her nephew -- and a disposition that invites murder...

Brother Cadfael quickly sees that Father Ailnoth is a harsh man who, striding along in his black cassock, looks like a doomsayer raven. The housekeeper's nephew, Benet, is quite different -- a smiling lad, a hard worker in Cadfael's herb garden, but, as Brother Cadfael soon discovers, an imposter. And when Ailnoth is found drowned, suspicion falls on Benet, though many in the Foregate had cause to want this priest dead. Now Brother Cadfael is gathering clues along with his medicinals to treat a case of unholy passions, tragic politics, and perhaps devine intervention...




13. The Rose Rent

1142(late spring): A late spring in 1142 brings dismay to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for there may be no roses by June 22nd. On that day the young widow Perle must receive one white rose as rent for the house she has given to benefit the abbey or the contract is void. When nature finally complies, a pious monk is sent to pay the rent -- and is found murdered beside the hacked rose bush.

The abbey's wise herbalist, Brother Cadfael, follows the trail of bloodied petals. He knows the lovely widow's dowry is far greater with her house included, and she will likely wed again. But before Cadfael can ponder if a greedy suitor has done the dreadful deed, another crime is committed. Now the good monk must thread his way through a tangle more tortuous than the widow's thorny bushes -- or there will be more tears...




14. The Hermit of Eyton Forest

1142(October): The year is 1142, and all England is in the iron grip of civil war. And within the sheltered cloisters of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, there begins a chain of events no less monumentous than the political upheavals of the outside world.

First, there is the sad demise of Richard Ludel, Lord of Eaton, whose 10-year-old son and heir, also named Richard, is a pupil at the Abbey. The boy refuses to surrender his new powers to his formidable grandmother; supported by Abbot Rudolphus, Richard defies the furious Dionysia.

A stranger to the region is the hermit Cuthred, who enjoys the protection of Lady Dionysia, and whose young companion, Hyacinth, befriends Richard. Despite his reputation for holiness, Cuthred's arrival heralds a series of mishaps for the monks. When Richard disappears and a corpes is found in Eyton Forest, Brother Cadfael is once more forced to leave the tranquility of his herb garden and devote his knowledge of human nature to tracking down a ruthless murderer.




15. The Confession of Brother Haluin

1142(December): Winter arrived early in 1142, bringing with it a heavy snowfall. The safety of the gueast-hall roof at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul comes into jeopardy, and the brothers are called upon to effect repairs.

But the icy and treacherous conditions are to prove near fatal for Brother Haluin. He slips from the roof and crashes to the ground, sustaining terrible injuries -- grave enough for him to want to make his deathbed confession...

The confession is heard by the Abbot and Brother Cadfael; a wicked story, of trespasses hard for God or man to forgive.

But Haluin does not die, On his recovery, he determines to make a journey of expiation, with Cadfael as his sole companion. It is an arduous journey, physically and emotionally, and one that leads to shocking discoveries: of young lovers thwarted; of deceit and betrayal; of bitter revenge... and of murder.

Once again, Brother Cadfael must abandon his herbiary and turn detective.




16. The Heretic's Apprentice

1143(early summer): In the summer of 1143, Willaim of Lythwood returns to Shrewsbury in a coffin... his pilgrimage at last at an end. William's young attendant, Elave, accompanies the body and sets about trying to secure a burial place on the grounds of the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, despite William's once having been reproved for "heretical views."

Elave, too, has evidently learned skepticism. After he drunkenly expresses heretical opinions, the mighty prelate Gerbert brings capital charges against him. The beautiful Fortunata, whom Elave adores, becomes a reluctant witness for the prosecution.

When violent death follows, Brother Cadfael is once again called from his herbiary to aid his old friend Hugh Beringer, the sheriff. Cadfael's new task is twofold -- there are charges of heresy to be rebutted as well as a murder to be solved...




17. The Potter's Field

1143(summer): The year is 1143 and this is the seventeenth chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury. Once again, the gentle monk is forced to leave the tranquility of his herb garden and use his knowledge of human nature to solve a murder -- this one frighteningly close to home.

When a newly plowed field recently given to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul yields the body of a young woman, Brother Cadfael is quickly thrown into a delicate situation. The field was once owned by a local potter named Ruald who had abandoned his beautiful wife Generys to take monastic vows.

Generys was said to have gone away with a lover, but now it seems as if she had been murdered. With the arrival at the Abbey of young Sulien Blount, a novice fleeing homeward from the civil war raging in East Anglia, the mysteries surrounding the corpse start to multiply.




18. The Summer of the Danes

1144(summer): In the summer of 1144, a strange calm has settled over England. The armies of King Stephen and Empress Maud, the two royal cousins contending for the throne, have temporarily exdhausted each other.

On the whole, Brother Cadfael considers peace a blessing. Still, a little excitement never comes amiss to a former soldier and Cadfael is delighted to accompany his young friend, Brother Mark, on a mission of church diplomacy to his native Wales.

But shortly after their arrival, the two monks are caught up in yet another royal feud. The Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd has banished his brother Cadwaladr, accusing him of the treacherous murder of an ally. The reckless Cadwaladr has retaliated by landing an army of Danish mercernaries, poised to invade Wales and retake his lost lands.

As the two armies teeter on the brink of bloody civil war, Cadfael is captured by the Danes. His fellow prisoner is a headstrong young woman fleeing an arranged marriage -- or perhaps her involvement in a murder at Owain's camp. But before Cadfael can untangle the passions that led to one death, he has to survive the brotherly quarrel that could plunge an entire kingdom into deadly chaos.




19. The Holy Thief

1144(autumn): In the chill, rainy autumn of 1144, two groups of visitors seek the hospitality of the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and Brother Cadfael fears trouble has come in with them. Among the first arrivals is Brother Tutilo, a young Benedictine with a guileless face and -- to Brother Cadfael's shrewd eyes -- a mischievous intelligence. The second group, a ribald French troubadour, his servant, and a girl with the voice of an angel, seems to Brother Cadfael a catalyst for disaster.

All of Cadfael's fears become manifest as rising flood waters endanger the abbey's most sacred relic, the remains of Saint Winifred. When the bones disappear and a dead body is found, Brother Cadfael knows carnal and spiritual intrigues are afoot. Now, in a world that believes in signs and miracles, Brother Cadfael needs his prayers answered -- as well as some heavenly guidance to crucial clues -- to catch a killer hell-bent on murder.




20. Brother Cadfael's Penance

1145(November): For Brother Cadfael in the autumn of his life, the mild November of our Lord's year 1145 may bring a bitter -- and deadly -- harvest. England is torn between supporters of the Empress Maud and those of her cousin Stephen. The civil strife is about to jeopardize not only Cadfael's life, but his hopes of Heaven.

While Cadfael has sometimes bent the Abbey's rules, he has never broken his monastic vows -- until now. Word has come to Shrewsbury of a treacherous act that has left thirty of Maud's knights imprisoned. All have been ransomed except Cadfael's secret son, Olivier de Bretagne. Conceived in Cadfael's soldiering youth and unaware of his father's identity, Olivier will die if he is not freed. Like never before, Cadfael must boldly defy the abbot. The good brother forsakes the order to follow his heart -- but what he finds will challenge his soul.




A Rare Benedictine:

"Brother Cadfael sprang to life suddenly and unexpectedly when he was already approaching sixty, mature, experienced, fully armed and seventeen years tonsured." So writes Ellis Peters in her introduction to A RARE BENEDICTINE -- three vintage tales of intrigue and treachery featuring the monastic sleuth who has become the best-loved ecclestiastical detective since Father Brown.

Although Cadfael has appeared in eighteen[sic] novel-length chronicles to date, the story of his entry into the monastery at Shrewsbury has been known hitherto only to a few readers. Now his myriad fans can discover the chain of events that led him into the Benedictine Order.

Adorned with many period illustraions by Clifford Harper, these three tales show Cadfael at the height of his sleuthing form. All the complexities of plot, vividly evoked Shropshire bachgrounds, and warm understanding of the frailties of human nature that have made Ellis Peters an international best-seller are here displayed to perfection.

  • Introduction

  • A Light on the Road to Woodstock:
    Autumn, 1120

  • The Price of Light:
    Christmas, 1135

  • Eye Witness:
    Early Spring



The Benediction of Brother Cadfael




The Brother Cadfael Chronicles


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