A Rare Benedictine (Brother Cadfael #21) ★★★☆☆

rarebenedictine (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: A Rare Benedictine
Series: Brother Cadfael #21
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 130
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

3 short stories. One about how Cadfael chose to become a monk and then 2 that were referenced in other books but never fleshed out.

 

My Thoughts:

Apparently, the previous book, Brother Cadfael’s Penance, was the “real” final book in the series. I kind of wish I had known that going in to this book so I wasn’t constantly looking for a series wrapup.

This was just a series of short stories about Cadfael. Beyond the first one where we find out just how Cadfael becomes a monk, the other stories felt extremely familiar, almost like re-treads. Nothing bad but nothing really good either. Decent reads is what I’d qualify it as.

I felt very “whatever” at the end of the book and am glad I’m done with Cadfael. Between this and the bomb that P.D. James turned out to be, I think I’m done with any sort of “mystery” genre or sub-genre for quite some time.

★★★☆☆

 

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Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh #1) ★★☆☆½

coverherface (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Cover Her Face
Series: Adam Dalgliesh #1
Author: P.D. James
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 256
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A young woman has been taken on as a part time servant at the Maxie resident. Said young woman causes as many small problems as she can and ends up being choked to death one night.

Detective Dalgliesh is assigned to the case and begins to uncover the web of sins connecting the household. The true story is told, the murderess confesses and life continues for those left behind.

Not a cozy mystery but more of a bottom feeding, slime pit mystery.

 

My Thoughts:

In my review of the Mistletoe Murder, I used the word “sordid”. I was afraid of getting more of that here. Thankfully, that was not the case. However, what I did get wasn’t much better.

I am not a fan of series where the titular character is barely there or plays almost no part in the story. Miss Marple springs to mind. I gave up on those mysteries when she stopped being the central “character”. Adam Dalgliesh was almost invisible in this story. In fact, the last 10 pages or so gave him more character than the whole of the book before those 10 pages. I felt like he was a hat rack for James to hang her literary hat upon. He was featureless, bland, plodding and was not a “character”.

I am also not a fan of unlikeable characters. From the murdered woman all the way up to the Matron of the House, there wasn’t a likeable person among them. The Matron’s two adult children were petty, self-centered bitter people. The two houseguests were delusional on one hand and quick to enjoy the suffering of others on the other. The dead girl’s uncle stole her small inheritance. The dead girl pretends to be a single mother so she can get all sorts of free stuff and then claims that the Matron’s son asked her to marry him. He doesn’t deny it even though he didn’t. And through it all, the dead girl was married almost 2 years ago and is expecting her secret husband back any time. She says what she says and does what she does just to cause chaos and turmoil and pain.

Now how am I supposed to enjoy reading about a group of people like that?

I don’t read books to experience the worst of humanity. I know it exists and it is real but my books are for me to escape, to aim for something higher. This gave me none of that.

I think I am done with James. Her desire to drag her readers through the mud and slimepits of her characters isn’t compatible with my desire to be actually entertained while I read. Her writing ability may be great, but it is wasted as far as I’m concerned, being used that way.

★★☆☆½

 

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The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories ★★☆☆½

mistletoemurder (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories
Series: ———-
Author: P.D. James
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 176
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 4 stories about murder. None are connected nor did I care enough to outline each story or even bother to list them.

 

My Thoughts:

* Spoilers *

Sordid. That is the one word that I felt best described this small book of short stories by P.D. James. One of the stories is told by the murder/rapist and left me feeling disgusted. Another one was told by the Granddaughter of the murderess and it is justified in their eyes. Homosexuality, blackmail and suicide. Filth.

Two of the stories dealt with James’ detective character Adam Dalgliesh (which I still can’t spell without looking it up) and he might as well have been as invisible as a hat on a hat rack. You could have changed the name to John Smith and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. He had zero personality and almost no part to play in either one.

From an entertainment standpoint, this was a complete failure. I was not impressed and I suspect I would not have liked James and her disgusting love of all things perverse.

That being said. She can WRITE. I hate it when this happens. Why does someone who writes like she can have to delve into the filthy underbelly of humanity and seem to ENJOY it so much? Upon finishing this I immediately went to the library and got the first Adam Dalgliesh book. I’m giving that 2 books for James to convince me that she doesn’t actually like murderers and rapists. But if I get that sordid vibe again, James will be off my list.

★★☆☆½

 

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Brother Cadfael’s Penance (Brother Cadfael #20) ★★★★☆

cadfaelspenance (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Brother Cadfael’s Penance
Series: Brother Cadfael #20
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 292
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

King Stephen and Empress Maud, the 2 contending Monarchs for the English throne, have been brought together to see if there is anyway to stop the war or at least cease the hostilities. One of Maud’s cohorts recently turned coat and gave over several castles to Stephen so she’s not in the best of moods. The talks go as expected (no where) but King Stephen’s man, who helped engineer the turncoat’s plans is killed.

This leads to a young man, who knows Cadfael from a previous book, being accused and then spirited away to said castle of the turncoat. At the same time, Cadfael’s son, who is on Empress Maud’s side, was lost in the shuffle of the castles changing hands and while presumed captured, there has been no ransom put forth. Cadfael goes on a quest to find the missing young man and his son and to exonerate the young man and gain the freedom of his son.

Cadfael risks losing his place in the Abbey to rescue his son and at the end of the book is in full contrition in front of his Abbot waiting for his judgement, as he, Cadfael, left without leave to do his own thing.

 

My Thoughts:

Not really a murder mystery this time around. More of politics and Cadfael trying to rescue some young men. It allowed Peters to write on a slightly grander scale and it was pretty enjoyable.

My only issue is of Cadfael breaking his monastic vows. I don’t know his exact vows when he became a Benedictine monk, but I’m sure that severing all ties was part of it. And yes, he finds out about his son AFTER he took the vows, but it felt like he really weaseled his way around them and flat out broke them. As a Protestant, I don’t believe in monastic vows nor do I think that the Bible encourages such things, BUT, once you do make a vow, you need to stick with it. If there is any doubt about keeping such vows, don’t make them. But don’t vacillate and give me the old tear jerk fountain when you want to break those vows.

I think part of why I enjoyed this more was because of the action going on. When Maud finds out that the Turncoat is in the castle he turned over to Stephen, she immediately musters her army and lays siege to it. Cadfael has to deal with going through that and figure out a way to make sure Justice is done and not just revenge. He does an admirable job in that regards and it was so much fun watching him maneuvering everything around. Cadfael’s best friend Hugh Beringar is on Stephen’s side,but Cadfael’s son is on the Empress’s side and basically it is a really messy situation. Cadfael walks that line without tripping and helps all those who need it.

With this being the second to last book in the series, I feel like Peters has her second wind and is ending things on a good note. I was very concerned the opposite would happen, so I’m doubly glad to see things turning out as they are.

★★★★☆

 

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The Holy Thief (Brother Cadfael #19) ★★★☆½

holythief (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Holy Thief
Series: Brother Cadfael #19
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Two fellow Benedictines from a neighboring enclave come in search of offerings of money, prayers, skilled labor and materials for help in rebuilding their plundered abbey. A great amount of all 4 are raised and sent on back to the abbey while the 2 brothers head to other abbey’s to keep on raising more support. The cart and its inhabitants are waylaid by bandits and while the men escape with their lives, all the materials and money is gone.

At this time, it is discovered that the reliquary supposedly containing the bones of the welsch Saintess has gone missing. Suspicion falls on the younger of the monks from the ruined abbey and a witness is called to prove he did take the reliquary. Said witness ends up dead and discovered by the younger monk. Lots of twistings and turnings later, it all comes out that it was done by the assistant to a travelling musician who had stolen the valuables and then murdered the witness to the stealing of the reliquary on the off chance he had seen the assistant take the gold and jewels.

Said young monk, who has a voice from heaven, runs off to Wales with the slave girl of the travelling musician who also has the gift of singing. The bones of the Saintess are returned safely to Shrewsbury, the murderer is taken and everything works out for the best, with the exception of the murdered shepherd, poor sap.

 

My Thoughts:

It is about phracking time that this series got back to having Cadfael as a main character again. I bumped this up at least half star just for that reason alone!

The other thing I really liked was that brother Jerome, that sniveler, that ass kisser and general sucker upper to Prior Robert, lost control and whacked the shepherd over the head. He thought he killed the guy but sadly, it turned out to be someone else put the finishing kabosh on the poor shepherd. I have to admit, I was hoping it WAS Jerome just so the sheriff, Hugh Beringar, could string him up and hang him dead. Jerome has been a worm since the first book and I want him dead. Oh well.

The whole young love thing is just such a trope in this series at this point that I just shrug my shoulders and think “oh well”. The problem I do have it is that it allows Peters to give voice to her rather ecumenical and unscriptural theology using a monk and so add weight to her thoughts.

I enjoyed this read from start to finish, which is a good change from the last couple of Cadfael books. I only have 2 more to go in this series and I’m really hoping they end strong and not with a whimper.

★★★☆½

 

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The Summer of the Danes (Brother Cadfael #18) ★★☆☆½

summerofthedanes (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Summer of the Danes
Series: Brother Cadfael #18
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A new Bishop/Prelate/Priest/Authority Figure has been invested in an area long neglected along the Welsh border. Brother Mark has been sent with gifts from his boss to let the new guys know he fully supports them. Since Mark doesn’t speak Welsh, Cadfael goes along for the ride.

There are politics galore, as the New Boss isn’t Welsh and there are Welsh issues. Two brothers are fighting and one comes back with a bunch of Danes to take what he wants. The Danes end up with Mark, Cadfael and a young woman named Hellend as hostages. Thngs happen, some people die, money, power, blah, blah, blah.

The hostages are released, the Danes go back to Ireland and Hellend, who was to marry one of the men of the Good Brother, skips out of town to hook up with a big brawny Dane. Cadfael returns to his Abbey and realizes that he hasn’t really left the world behind. He still wants to travel.

 

My Thoughts:

It wasn’t that this was any worse than any of the previous books, but my goodness, I am getting thoroughly tired of these non-Cadfael adventures. Thank goodness there are only 3 more to go.

This book did convince me to NOT start another medieval mystery series when I finish up this one. I was contemplating the Sister Frevisse series but after barely making it through this book, I’ve realized I’ve reached my limit.

This was not bad by any means. It was just more of the same. Cadfael is a witness to the events, not an active participant. I am wondering about trying a completely different genre to replace these when I’m done. I’m already reading “Western” with L’Amours Sackets and I’ve got the SFF side of things more than adequately covered. Crime/Noir is not a genre I enjoy and while I’d like to get into some long running Action/Adventure/Thriller series, I’m not sure where to go. Eh, whatever. I’ll find something.

★★☆☆½

 

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The Potter’s Field (Brother Cadfael #17) ★★★☆☆

pottersfield (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Potter’s Field
Series: Brother Cadfael #17
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 248
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Cadfael’s Abbey trades a field with another Abbey and in the process of plowing it, turn up the remains of a woman.

A newly minted monk at Shrewsbury took the vows against his wife’s wishes and she disappeared, thought to have run off to Wales with a lover. Now the suspicion is on him. Until a novitiate turns up with a story about seeing the woman just a couple of weeks ago, with her ring to prove it. Then another woman is shown to have disappeared and her lover is arrested. The same novitiate proves that the woman is alive and sets the scoundrel free.

It all turns out that the woman was the monk’s wife but she died due to the novitiates father and mother. It wasn’t murder and there was no foul play. It was complicated enough that even Hugh Beringar says that God will sort out everyone’s motives.

 

My Thoughts:

I found this to be one of the more complicated mysteries, mainly because of the various motivations and lack of malice aforethought. And yet I certainly can’t agree with the author’s thoughts, presented through Cadfael, Hugh and the Father Abbot, that everything was ok in the end. There was no justice. The mother of the novitiate did cause the death of the wife of the monk, even if hatred wasn’t involved.

These last couple of Cadfael books I have found myself disagreeing with the author more and more about how justice gets carried out and just what is the law. If you cause someone else’s death, even if they agree to it, that is still killing someone. The price of a life is the life of the one who took it or, if there was no forethought and hatred, banishment for life. Someone who pre-meditates and then carries out a killing is not someone who deserves to live. That is a cancer that must be cut out, not a cold that gets treated with soft tissues and extra fluids.

Mercy misplaced or misapplied is as bad as no mercy at all.

★★★☆☆

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