Top positive review
27 people found this helpful
Exciting Mediaeval Whodunit
on December 26, 2000
"One Corpse Too Many" appeared a couple of years after the earlier, `pilot' book in the Brother Cadfael series. During the intervening period, Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) had fleshed out her picture of mediaeval Shrewsbury somewhat - and also clearly formulated a plan for developing her earlier novel into a longer series of stories. This second book skilfully sets the scene and introduces characters for later volumes, so for maximum enjoyment of both this and later volumes, you should read this early in the sequence (indeed, the TV dramatisations of the books features this as the first episode).
The action of this book is set in 1138, during the siege of the castle of Shrewsbury - held by parties loyal to the Empress Maud - by King Stephen, anxious to defend and uphold his claim to the throne of England. As in the previous book, Brother Cadfael's interest lies more in seeing to a successful resolution the personal dramas of those innocents caught within the wider political manoeuvrings, than any pursuit of larger goals. Indeed, his dogged pursuit of the truth and justice for the unidentified and unremarked "extra" corpse amongst those slain on Stephen's orders is just one example of this. Throughout the book, though, the solving of the murder mystery takes second place to his concern for those still living. Indeed, the murder is solved almost along the way, as it were. And not by Cadfael, alone.
As with others in this series, Peters' use of archaic language (both words and phrasing) in her prose and attention to historical detail draw the reader wholly into the picture of mediaeval Britain that she paints. In addition, she has a fine sense of drama, which makes the book hard to put down from the outset. Even when you know the outcome, the tale remains gripping, so even if you've seen the TV dramatisation, this book remains an excellent and exciting read. Its ending is somewhat different (and rather more satisfying) than the TV version, too.