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Saint Peter's Fair (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Book 4) Kindle Edition
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“Stylishly authentic . . . A graceful and informative case for Peter’s engaging herb-gardening monk.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Wonderful history lessons wrapped up in a mystery and served with style and grace.” —The Cincinnati Post
About the Author
Pargeter won an Edgar Award in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman, and in 1993 she won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an annual award given by the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She was appointed officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1994, and in 1999 the British Crime Writers’ Association established the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award, later called the Ellis Peters Historical Award.
- ASIN : B00LUZNVZK
- Publisher : MysteriousPress.com/Open Road; Reprint edition (August 5, 2014)
- Publication date : August 5, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 8909 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 282 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #22,524 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A picture of ethnic and linguistic diversity
Consider the names of the principal characters in this story:
Rhodri ap Huw
I'm no medieval scholar, but it's clear to me that these names highlight the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the region. Their origin includes Welsh, Breton, Saxon, and Norman roots. (No doubt Scandinavian influence was also present but no longer reflected in the names common in southwest England.) Clearly, Ms. Pargeter had done her research.
A wealth of historical information
In fact, there's a wealth of historical information in these well-crafted novels:
The annual fair
The eponymous Saint Peter's Fair is the annual market sponsored by Cadfael's Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Shrewsbury. Apparently, the Fair provided a large share of the abbey's income. Merchants paid the monks the equivalent of tariffs as well as fees to rent the space provided them for the fair. And, as the author makes clear, merchants were happy to pay the price, even though high, because the Fair offered a rare opportunity to sell large quantities of their products to the crowds thronging their booths.
A troubled time in English history
The Cadfael Chronicles are set during a troubled time in English history. King Stephen (reigned 1135-1154) and Empress Maud (also known as Matilda or Maude), representing different factions of nobles, contended for the throne, and their minions wreaked havoc on the land. (She had been Holy Roman Empress from 1114 to 1125, but the novel is set in 1139.) The civil war their rivalry provoked is at the center of the action in Saint Peter's Fair.
Conflict between town and abbey
The plot in Saint Peter's Fair hinges in part on the equivalent of a town-gown dispute. The town of Shrewsbury had recently been attacked in the course of the ongoing civil war and suffered considerable damage. The guildsmen who ran the town hoped to persuade the abbot to share a portion of the income from the Fair. Otherwise, they claimed, they couldn't afford to repair the damage to the town's walls and streets. But the abbot, citing precedent, refuses, thus setting in motion a series of tragic events.
The dominant monastic order in medieval England
The Benedictines, one of the oldest of the Catholic monastic orders, were dominant in England during the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. However, unlike their peers, the Benedictines were not organized in a centralized way; each monastery, priory, or abbey operated autonomously. And although that's not explicitly noted in Saint Peter's Fair, it helps explain how the authority exercised by Abbot Radulphus could be so great.
Brother Cadfael: monk, soldier, physician, detective
Like the other books in the Cadfael Chronicles, Saint Peter's Fair is a mystery, with Brother Cadfael playing the part of a detective. In this tale, he works in tandem with his friend, undersheriff Hugh Beringar. Cadfael had left the life of a soldier in the Crusades sixteen years earlier to join the Benedictines. For all those years, he tended the herb garden and functioned as a physician to the people of Shrewsbury as well as those of the abbey. And, when the dead body of a wealthy merchant turns up on the first day of the three-day Fair, Cadfael and Hugh Beringar feel bound to identify and punish the murderer. Naturally, they will succeed at length, but not before a long, fraught investigation during which other bodies turn up as well.
This one fell a bit flat in terms of mystery - there really wasn't much of a surprise by the end who the main culprit was - but that's not to say there wasn't sufficient suspense - and it had the most thrilling scene yet, in the 4 books I've read anyway, in a climactic scene towards the end - very well done -
Will continue to read on!
This tale has fewer of the usual plot elements. There is a wrongly accused man but even the sheriff does not seem to seriously believe that he is guilty. There are star crossed lovers but there are no family objections or obstacles to overcome with Brother Cadfael's help. The villain in this story is particularly odious with no redeeming or sympathetic qualities at all. This novel is both familiar enough and different enough to entertain Cadfael fans but I was unable to read it on autopilot. It was not a good choice for a simple tale to read while tired and sleepy.
Top reviews from other countries
I like Cadfael and I always feel when reading these books that I have been transported back to the twelfth century - a period of history I know very little about. I thought the plot was well constructed though I did work out who was at the back of the series of deaths though not why the murders were happening.
If you enjoy historical crime novels then this series is definitely worth reading. I think the series can probably be read in any order though if you want to follow the development of minor series characters then you need to read them in order of publication.
This time in the previous year, the town of Shrewsbury was under siege by King Stephen's forces. The new abbot refuses the town's request for financial assistance in helping it rebuild its community by donating part of the profits that the abbey would accrue from its annual fair. Whilst Hugh Beringar tells Cadfael that, "The word in the town is that this may be law, but it is not justice", the stage is set for some boisterous goings-on during the fair.
Ellis Peters took a different approach to the structure of this instalment by placing the chapters within sections headed `The Eve of the Fair', `The First Day of the Fair', `The Second Day of the Fair', `The Third Day of the Fair', and `After the Fair'. This provides a good structure for the reader as he or she follows events as each day unfolds. And come the end, we can see how what appeared at first as a purely local mystery, actually had implications in the politics of the nation. As Cadfael remarks, "Where there are two warring factions in a land ... men without scruples can turn controversy to gain."
I do not want to give the game away for those who have not read this book, but for those who have, I feel I should mention that Peters's logic seems false at the story's end: if Emma really wanted "to keep the wives unwidowed and the children still fathered" in the struggle between Stephen and Matilda, then with hindsight it would have been better to have handed over what her captor desired. I'm not sure either that the chimneys and solars as described would have been found in the Welsh Marches of the twelfth century.
But these are minor quibbles. This instalment in the series is as enjoyable as any other.
Interesting that there are few works on Enlands first Civil War.
much over the centuries. Enjoy.