Friday, January 28, 2011

Top shelf, Selection Seven--The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael

I don't know why, but I have a fascination with monks, especially Medieval ones. This fascination might have begun during my visits to old monasteries when I lived in France for sixteen months.  Or it might have happened when I visited a real, working monastery and caught a glimpse at their ordered lifestyle. 

I also love a good mystery. I read through all 40-something Nancy Drew books when I was in third and fourth grades and worked my way through the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins and on up to Agatha Christie by the time I graduated from high school.

My idea of a perfect read, then, would combine both monks and mystery. What a happy surprise the day I discovered that such a combination existed, and not just in one book, but a whole series of twenty.

In the The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, Ellis Peters brings to life the medieval world of Shrewsbury, England and populates it with real and interesting people. Brother Cadfael is a monk, but he's also an herbalist, a former crusader, and what some call a busybody. Cadfael's real passion is seeing the innocent go free, even if that means a bit of trickery on his part. He's very devout, though, and has insights about God's doings that are, in a word, profound. 

I love these books. I also love the PBS Mystery adaptations starring Derek Jacobi. He is Brother Cafael, down to the rolling barrel walk.

Ellis Peters passed away shortly after the publication of the twentieth book in the series, Brother Cadfael's Penance, my favorite of them all. May she rest in peace and may the publisher bring these books back to print.

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