Saturday, 2 December 2017

Book Review - Brother Cadfael, The Leper of St Giles (Cadfael Chronicles #5) by Ellis Peters

My younger self was going through a phase of reading cozy whodunnits with a preference for those set in England. And when this younger self spotted a paperback edition of Brother Cadfael 'in the reduced to clear'-pile of the station bookshop, it evidently couldn't resist. 

Ten years or so later my appetite for cozies has somewhat decreased and I probably wouldn't pick another from the series today. But as it's book clear-out time and I'm trying to complete a few more books before the end of the year, Brother Cadfael was allowed to accompany me on my commute.

Brother Cadfael - The Leper of St Giles by Ellis Peters
German Edition (Bruder Cadfael und der Hochzeitsmord, Heyne Verlag 1996)

The internet tells me that the Leper of Saint Giles is the fifth in the Cadfael series. It was originally published 36 years ago in 1981. My review of the book refers to the German 1996 print edition, originally published by Heyne in 1987, which is titled 'Bruder Cadfael und der Hochzeitsmord' (literally translated back into English: 'Brother Cadfael and the Wedding Murder'). I am therefore unable to pass comment on the author's English prose, but I enjoyed the translation by Dirk van Gunsteren.

The plot in short: The benedictine monastery of St Giles is the setting for a lavish wedding ceremony. Before the spectacle is about to go ahead, the groom is found murdered and one of his knaves is framed as the prime suspect. Cadfael promptly sets out to solve the case, exonerates the knave and implicitly endorses a second murder. His reconstruction of the events lead him to investigate the movements of colourful characters connected to the victims, including a mistress turned Benedictine nun and a mysterious leper.

Map of Shrewsbury and Environs - Brother Cadfael and the Leper of St Giles by Ellis Peters  (CadfaelChronicles No 5), photo of German Edition (Bruder Cadfael und der Hochzeitsmord, Heyne Verlag 1996)

This 253-page Cadfael is an undemanding, short read. At least in my world, murder mysteries of this length enjoy an easier ride than most other genres. Due to their relative brevity (cozy mysteries are usually no longer than 400 pages), I tend to finish them in a timely manner, reading larger chunks over one to three days to ensure continuity. Had the book been longer, I might have lost interest.

The Leper of Saint Giles fits the textbook definition of a cozy. I enjoyed aspects of reading  the descriptions of the setting (Shrewsbury in the 12th century) and a few tidbits on herbal medicine and monastic life in medieval England. The plot is very well timed, but predictable. The characterisations tend to split the cast into black and white.

Will I read a Cadfael again? - I probably won't hurry to get my hands on another instalment in the near future. At the same time, it's worthwhile mentioning that Ellis Peters is a prolific author and I wouldn't be put off by the prospect of reading another novel of hers, something unconnected to the Cadfael chronicles though.

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