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The Devil's Novice (1983)

by Ellis Peters, Ellis Peters (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Brother Cadfael Mysteries (8)

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1,757369,924 (3.89)68
Outside the pale of the Abbey of Saint Peters and Saint Paul, in September of the year of our Lord 1140, a priestly emissary for King Stephen has been reported missing. But inside the pale, what troubles Brother Cadfael is a proud, secretive nineteen-year-old novice. Brother Cadfael has never seen two men more estranged than the Lord of Aspley and Meriet, the son he coldly delivers to the abbey to begin a religious vocation. Meriet, meek by day, is so racked by dreams at night that his howls earn him the nickname the Devil's Novice. Shunned and feared, Meriet is soon linked to the missing priest's dreadful fate. Only Brother Cadfael believes in Meriet's innocence, and only the good sleuth can uncover the truth before the boy's pure passion leads him to the noose.… (more)
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English (31)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  All languages (35)
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Summary: Meriet Aspley is called the “Devil’s Novice” for his nightmares, his awkwardness among the brothers, and an attack leaving him consigned to Brother Mark, where he finds the body of a man he later confesses to have murdered.

Even Meriet Aspley’s arrival at Saints Peter and Paul is awkward from the cold and distant parting from his father to his over-zealousness to be received as a monk. Then there are the nightmares, calmed by Cadfael but arousing talk of him being the “devil’s novice.” When found with a girl’s ornament, he nearly chokes Brother Jerome to death when the brother takes it from him and burns it. For punishment, he is sent to the lazar house to work with Brother Mark, work he takes to well.

Meanwhile, news arrives that Pieter Clemence, a church emissary who had visited the Aspley manor has gone missing, and subsequently his horse is found near boggy ground. Clemence is assumed dead. Hugh Beringar as sheriff helps to investigate. Cadfael, as an emissary from the abbey helps both abbot and Hugh by visiting the Aspley manor. He meets Janyn, the twin of Roswithia, who is to marry Nigel, the favored son of Leoric Aspley, Nigel and Meriet’s father. He learns nothing of Clemence except that he was escorted on his way for a short distance by the father and two servants. He does learn of the affection of Isouda Foriet, from another neighboring manor, for Meriet, and that she is determined to marry him and doubts his call as a monk.

Subsequently, on a mission to gather wood for the lazar house, Meriet leads them to a place he knew where his family stored wood to make charcoal. They discover the remains of a man with a cross and ring that identify him as Clemence. They also find an arrow in his chest. Hugh is looking for a murderer. When a beggar as apprehended for theft, he is carrying a dagger that belonged to Clemence. They hold but don’t charge him for murder but allow word to get out. When Meriet hears that the beggar has been charged, he surprises everyone with a confession. The father had agreed to cover things up, sending Meriet to the abbey. Yet Meriet’s story doesn’t add up. Cadfael and Beringar suspect someone else.

All the possible “persons of interest” will be at the wedding of Roswithia and Nigel and so Hugh and Cadfael bide their time. Amid all this, we have the resolute and ingenious Isouda, who conspires with Cadfael to visit Meriet and later uncovers a key piece of evidence. Her character brought a needed contrast to the seriousness of Meriet and his father, Leoric.

Why Clemence was murdered remains a puzzle. When the answer comes, it will reveal larger conspiracies and lead to another murder attempt. But what of Meriet and Isouda? You’ll just have to read the book to find out! ( )
  BobonBooks | Jan 2, 2024 |
When a father dumps a son at the abbey, Cadfael observes something amiss. The novice's reactions to the sight of blood, the recurring nightmares & his scorn & contempt for brother Jerome reaches the breaking point. Cadfael's suggestion of placing him at the lepers' home is carried out while Cadfael investigates the novice's family home. Soon too many questions begin to appear after a bishop's legate's body is discovered near the lepers' home. Will Cadfael discover the truth in time to save a man's mind & soul from despair? ( )
  walterhistory | Jul 12, 2022 |
Pretty sure I missed this one the first time around. The overall pattern is still the same. They get overly similar after awhile, but it's a formula I like. ( )
  Malaraa | Apr 26, 2022 |
4 stars
It’s been a few years since I’d read the previous book in this series but it’s so well written and I love the characters so much it was easy to pick up where I’d left off. The great thing about the Cadfael series is that most historical mysteries just take place in a historical setting. The mysteries in Cadfael are often as was the case in this book actually driven by history. The murder is a direct result of the civil war that was taking place in 1140, and treason against King Stephen.
Cadfael along with healing many along the way solves the case, saves the day, unites the boy and girl, then settles down to Compline.


Cozies Reading Challenge ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
The latest addition to the abbey is a young man with night terrors...what sins has he committed in order to act this way? Brother Cadfael works out the clues as usual. I thought I knew the murderer this time, but the motive was not apparent until the end. Good read, as always. ( )
  fuzzi | Aug 14, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peters, Ellisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellis PetersAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benjamin, VanessaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chwat, SergeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doleżal-Nowicka, IrenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansson, LarsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssens, PieterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langowski, JürgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Menini, María AntoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wormell, ChristopherCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zardoni, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the middle of September of that year of our Lord, 1140, two lords of Shropshire manors, one north of the town of Shrewsbury, the other south, sent envoys to the abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day, desiring the entry of younger sons of their houses to the Order.
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Outside the pale of the Abbey of Saint Peters and Saint Paul, in September of the year of our Lord 1140, a priestly emissary for King Stephen has been reported missing. But inside the pale, what troubles Brother Cadfael is a proud, secretive nineteen-year-old novice. Brother Cadfael has never seen two men more estranged than the Lord of Aspley and Meriet, the son he coldly delivers to the abbey to begin a religious vocation. Meriet, meek by day, is so racked by dreams at night that his howls earn him the nickname the Devil's Novice. Shunned and feared, Meriet is soon linked to the missing priest's dreadful fate. Only Brother Cadfael believes in Meriet's innocence, and only the good sleuth can uncover the truth before the boy's pure passion leads him to the noose.

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It is 1140. The Benedictine monastry at Shrewsbury finds its new novice Meriet Aspley a disturbing presence. Meek by day, his sleep is disturbed by violent nightmares that earn him the nickname of "Devil's Novice". Can he be involved with the disappearance of a superior prelate?
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