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A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)

by Ellis Peters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Brother Cadfael Mysteries (1)

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3,9061023,098 (3.79)267
On an expedition to acquire a saint's remains, Brother Cadfael instead finds intrigue and murder It is 1137, and the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey wishes to acquire the remains of Saint Winifred for the glory of his Benedictine order. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to the saint's final resting place in Wales, where he finds the villagers divided over the Benedictines' quest. When the leading opponent to moving the grave is shot dead with a mysterious arrow, some believe Winifred herself delivered the blow. Brother Cadfael knows that an earthly hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to root out a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice, where the waves of sin may be scandal-or his own ruin.… (more)
Recently added bymicheledefeo, private library, djambruso, franoscar, scraps, JoeB1934, dokpm0, JFBCore, OldManTV, Barlycorn
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» See also 267 mentions

English (92)  Italian (4)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
I've been vaguely aware of this series for years, but never actually picked one up. I lucked in to a bulk lot of the series, and picked this one up and read it in an afternoon. I really enjoyed it. There was enough mystery without there being excessive focus on the death, the characterisation was fabulous. Some aspects of what was going on were incredibly well telegraphed, while others I missed entirely.

And the title is a lovely pointed comment, but whether it is specifically the author, or Brother Cadfael, I never did pick. ( )
  fred_mouse | Dec 7, 2023 |
Pretty entertaining. I liked the historical setting a lot and the mystery stuff keeps the suspense up. Worth noting the mystery stuff is definitely not like a solvable puzzle or anything but it also doesn't pull any big tricks on you or anything so it's still interesting as a mystery. The characters are pretty charming and well written. I did find the regular extolling of the virtues of the Welsh pretty funny ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
Brother Cadfael is cautious in his dealings with others, so the book is not a thriller, but it does make for thoughtful mystery. I learned something new about the differences in cultures: the importance to the Welsh of family ties, and their reluctance to allow outsiders as landowners (at least during Medieval Ages). ( )
  juniperSun | Sep 1, 2023 |
Summary: Cadfael is part of a group commissioned to retrieve the bones of a Welsh saint. When the one leading landowner who opposes the removal is murdered, Cadfael helps his daughter find the murder, avenging his death.

There was a time in the 1980’s and 1990’s when a number of friends went on about the Brother Cadfael stories and television adaptations. Somehow, I missed all that. Perhaps I was reading other things at the time (I was pursuing graduate studies). So I apologize if all this is old news to you. I’m just now discovering these wonderful stories. But for those who are like me….

Ellis Peters (Edith Mary Pargeter) wrote twenty stories (and one collection of short stories) in this series between 1977 and 1994, the last published shortly before her death in 1995. The central character is Brother Cadfael, as you might have suspected, a Welsh Benedictine monk who is a gardener, herbalist and sometime doctor, as well as translator and medical examiner. He came to the Abbey at Shrewsbury later in life after service as a crusader and sea captain. His wide experience made him a shrewd observer of human nature, a skill he draws on to solve deaths by mysterious means in this series.

In this first in the series, Cadfael is part of a delegation sent to Gwytherin to retrieve the remains of St. Winifred, after a vision by Brother Columbanus, who has “fits” and sees visions, speaking of her grave being neglected. This is important to the standing of the Abbey at Shrewsbury, which has no relics. The bishop and the prince of Gwynedd (who later comes off as a very sensible chap as do all the Welsh), consent. Prior Robert, ambitious for the abbey, leads the delegation with Cadfael along to translate. They are also accompanied by Brother Columbanus, Brother John, whose fitness for the celibate life is quesionable, as well as Sub-Prior Richard and Prior Roberts clerk Jerome.

The delegation is received warmly but Father Huw, the local priest, advises a meeting with the free men of the parish to gain there consent. One of the most influential, Risiart, is resistant. In a private meeting Prior Robert attempts to bribe him and discovers he has run up against a man of true integrity. Risiart breaks off all talks and the others follow his lead. Father Huw attempts to patch things up and Risiart agrees to another meeting with Prior Robert the next day–but he never shows up–unusual for this man. A search finds him lying dead on a forest path along the way, apparently from an arrow through the heart.

The leading suspect is Engelard, an Englishman who works for Risiart and who has fallen in love with Risiart’s daughter, Sioned. So far, although they get along, Risiart has refused to give her hand in marriage. The hope is that she will marry Peredur, the son of a neighboring landowner and friend of Sioned since childhood. He loves her but she has only the affection of a friend.

Cadfael investigates. The arrow bears Engelard’s mark, but the angle is all wrong. The pattern of dampness is all wrong. Closer examination of the body shows his assailant stabbed him in the back with a downward blow, and then after death, the arrow was inserted angling upward from the front, following the wound pathway.

In Welsh tradition, it falls to the family to see that a murder is avenged. Risiart’s family is Sioned. Some of the best passages in the book are those in which Cadfael communicates understanding of this need and then works withi Sioned to find the killer, all the while walking a delicate balance with Prior Robert’s ambitions, the amorous feelings of Brother John and the further commanding visions of Brother Columbanus.

I see what people like about Cadfael. While a monk, he is no prude, nor is he naive. He understands both sexuality and ambition, acknowledging that were he a younger man, he would have been one of Sioned’s suitors! He works quietly toward resolution while Prior Robert gains the fame, though we discover that he might not have gained what he thought! Cadfael shows a marvelous degree of self-possession that enables him to care for others and to pursue justice, to act with shrewdness that mends both personal wounds and the social fabric. ( )
  BobonBooks | Jul 3, 2023 |
DNF @ page 108.

Too slow and the language is confusing. It's written in an old timey way that's difficult to follow and doesn't flow well.
  LynnMPK | Jun 27, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ellis Petersprimary authorall editionscalculated
健, 大出翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
エリス・ピー…secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christensen, JanOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Escott, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gehlin, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilles, NicolasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houston, GlynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobi, Sir DerekSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssens, PieterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karve, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Menini, María AntoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mowat, Dianesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelitti, ElsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staercke-Lobry, MarijeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, JohannaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the fine, bright morning in early May when the whole sensational affair of the Gwytherin relics may properly be considered to have begun, Brother Cadfael had been up long before Prime, pricking out cabbage seedlings before the day was aired, and his thoughts were all on birth, growth and fertility, not at all on graves and reliquaries and violent deaths, whether of saints, sinners or ordinary decent, fallible men like himself.
Quotations
“When I want to hear my echo,” said Brother Cadfael, “I will at least speak first.”
“God resolves all given time,” said Cai philosophically and trudged away into the darkness. And Cadfael returned along the path with the uncomfortable feeling that God, nevertheless, required a little help from men, and what he mostly got was hindrance.
Great darkness and constant, feeble light, the slow flowing of time from far beyond his conception to far beyond his power to follow, the solitude about him and the troubled and peopled world within, all these settled into their perpetual pattern, a steady rhythm as perfect as sleep.
“Both men and women partake of the same human nature, Huw. We both bleed when we're wounded. That's a poor, silly woman, true, but we can show plenty of poor, silly men. There are women as strong as any of us, and as able.”
He made a mistake, and there should be provision for everybody to make one fresh start.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

On an expedition to acquire a saint's remains, Brother Cadfael instead finds intrigue and murder It is 1137, and the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey wishes to acquire the remains of Saint Winifred for the glory of his Benedictine order. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to the saint's final resting place in Wales, where he finds the villagers divided over the Benedictines' quest. When the leading opponent to moving the grave is shot dead with a mysterious arrow, some believe Winifred herself delivered the blow. Brother Cadfael knows that an earthly hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to root out a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice, where the waves of sin may be scandal-or his own ruin.

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(from the back of the book) In the remote Welsh mountain village of Gwytherin lies the grave of Saint Winifred. Now, in 1137, the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey had decided to acquire the sacred remains for his Benedictine order. Native Welshman Brother Cadfael is sent on the expedition to translate and finds the rustic villagers of Gwytherin passionately divided by the Benedictine's offer for the saint's relics. Canny, wise, and all too worldly, he isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder.
The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself held the bow. Brother Cadfael knows a carnal hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice... where the wages of sin may be scandal or Cadfael's own ruin.
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