- Series: Brother Cadfael Chronicles (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446400157
- ISBN-13: 978-0446400152
- Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 353 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1994
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In this first novel in a series of 21 mysteries, "A Morbid Taste for Bones," one of Brother Cadfael's fellow monks sees a vision of the Welsh Saint Winifred pleading for her remains to be transported to their Shrewsbury Abbey, where she will be properly venerated--and the abbey will prosper from the pilgrims attracted to her relics.
(Saint Winifred was an actual 7th century Welsh Christian who was decapitated by a frustrated suitor. Her head was re-attached to her body by her uncle, another Welsh saint, and Winifred returned to life and became a nun and an abbess at Gwytherin in Denbigshire.)
Cadfael is skeptical about the convenient vision, but is sent along with the monks who are tasked to acquire Saint Winifred's bones from her grave, because he is a native Welsh speaker.
The monkish party makes the pilgrimage to Gwytherin only to find many of the villagers passionately opposed to losing their saint. A murder is committed, and Brother Cadfael must sift through the many possible suspects, both English and Welsh. His past life as a ship's captain and Crusader is skillfully woven into this 12th century whodunit, as is the rich tapestry of everyday life on the Welsh border. This book's ending was satisfying on many levels, not just the discovery of the murderer. Once I read "A Morbid Taste for Bones" I was hooked on the whole series, and both my husband, a medieval history major, and I have read and reread the Cadfael books many times.
That did not at all detract from this story and the mystery around the death of a Welsh lord. The interposition of the underhanded dirty tricks by the clergy was humorous and then not so much as they double dealing gets a bit out of hand. The villagers are interesting and so important to the telling of the story. The Welsh character is portrayed through the actions of so many of the village as is the general character of the English. That in itself provides some of the frisson that activates this story.
The descriptions of the landscape is lush and the descriptions of the people are engaging.
This was such a good book, I told my husband I want the entire series as a present. We'll see what happens....
It seemed a good time to try reading the novels the TV show was made from, and I am reading them in order. In this first book, we meet the occupants of the Dominican abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. First and foremost, we meet Brother Cadfael. He's a Welshman, and before becoming a monk, he was a soldier. This makes him much more worldly-wise than his fellow monks. He's also a little more tolerant of sinners than most of his fellows.
He can be disappointed by his fellow humans, as he is sometimes in this book. He is sent to Wales, as translator for a group sent there to bring the bones of Saint Winifred back to the monestary.
I found this novel every bit as enjoyable as the TV series. Ellis Peters drew a believable portrait of Medieval England. It might not be the same as you learned in school. It certainly isn't the Medieval England I was taught about in school! But since I was in school, we've learned more, and indeed the people of that time were every bit as clever as we are today. The voices in the novel sound reasonably modern to my ear. Since this is not work of scholarship, I will admit to being glad of that. It is a book for modern people, even if it is about medieval people.