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An Excellent Mystery (1985)

by Ellis Peters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Brother Cadfael Mysteries (11)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,7043610,175 (3.9)49
Fiction. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:

In this "enchanting" historical mystery, "medieval England comes marvelously alive" as Brother Cadfael investigates a woman's baffling disappearance (The Washington Post).


In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war??and a mystery.

The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephen has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt, and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely??and totally mute??must seek refuge at Shrewsbury. From the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses something deeper than common vows binds these two good brothers. What the link is he can only guess. What it will lead to is beyond his imagining. As Brother Humilis's health fails??and nothing can stop death's lengthening shade??Brother Cadfael faces a poignant test of his discretion and his beliefs as he unravels a secret so great it can destroy a life, a future, an
… (more)
  1. 00
    The Earl by Cecelia Holland (themulhern)
    themulhern: Both books are set during the wars between Stephen and Matilda. "The Earl" is far grimmer and more political, after al it is about an earl, and such did engage in politics and fighting. There is more sex and considerably less romantic ardor of one sort or another in "The Earl" than in "An Excellent Mystery".… (more)
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English (31)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (34)
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Summary: A dying monk, a refugee from Maud’s wars, arrives at Shrewsbury Abbey with a mute brother as helper and a former aide of the monk discovers that the monk’s former betrothed is missing.

Maud’s efforts to secure the throne have taken a turn for the worst. The Bishop of Winchester won’t support her, lays siege to the town, and herself becomes besieged, escaping at great loss. but in the process both the Abbey at Hyde-Mead and the convent at Wherwell are razed, the latter with both troops and sisters dying in the chapel where they had taken sanctuary.

In August, two brothers from Hyde-Mead arrive at the Abbey at Shrewsbury. The elder, Humilis, is at death’s door. He has been tended on the road by Fidelis, who has indeed been faithful in doing what could be done. When Cadfael treats him, he recognizes an old Crusader, Godfrid Marescot, who formerly had lived on a nearby estate. He’d suffered a terrible wound, rendering him unable to father children, and slowly draining him of life. Fidelis supports his efforts, and in the process Cadfael learns that Fidelis is mute.

Before he was wounded, Marescot was betrothed to Julian of Cruce. When he realized he could not truly be a husband to her, he entered the Benedictines. He sent a trusted aide, Nicholas Harnage, to break the engagement. Now, Harnage, on leave from the Queen’s army, visits his old leader. His mission is a matter of the heart. When he carried the news of the broken engagement, Julian attracted his own attention. Now he asks Humilis for his blessing to pursue her hand, which Humilis grants. Harnage’s hopes are quickly dashed. Arriving at Julian’s brothers estate, he learns he is three years too late. Shortly after he’d brought the news from Marescot, Julian entered the convent–at Wherwell. Knowing what had recently occurred, he is worried–had she escaped or died.

He sets off for Wherwell, stopping briefly at Shrewsbury. What he finds alarms him yet more. He tracks down the prioress, and learns she never arrived, they had no knowledge of her. The focus turns to the four men who escorted her, and particularly the one men, who travelled alone with her the last portion of the journey, Adam Heriet. He is found and claims he had been ordered by his lady to let her complete the last part of the journey alone. When the wife of a jeweler in Winchester is questioned about a ring that had belonged to Julian, she describes Heriet as the seller. Taken into custody, as her longtime guardian, he stoutly denies any wrongdoing but offers no explanation.

Will Julian’s whereabouts, alive or dead be discovered before the life of Humilis, rapidly ebbing away, is discovered?

A sideplot, concerning Brother Urien, who expresses his attraction to two young brothers, Rhun and Fidelis, is handled with grace, even though Urien has acted gracelessly.

And Cadfael? Besides attentive care for Humilis and his last wishes, he plays the soul of discretion in averting what could have been a great scandal for the Abbey. But to say more, would be to say too much! All in all, an excellent mystery, indeed. ( )
  BobonBooks | Apr 2, 2024 |
Quality writing and research with a real feel for time and place. The eleventh book in this excellent series, but could be read as a standalone story. Character driven descriptive intelligent storytelling. Only four stars because much to my surprise I solved the mystery, so not the usual whodunit ending.
Completely recommended. ( )
  Gudasnu | Jun 19, 2023 |
A Brother Cadfael mystery novel is somehow so comforting a thing. This particular novel was a little short on Cadfael for me, and focused a touch too little on the life in the Abbey and more on the outside world, but still a sweet read. I solved the mystery fairly early on, but I think that might have been Peters’ intent. What was interesting was how Cadfael resolved a sticky situation.

As they say, this is not rocket science. It isn’t the most profound writing ever, but it is loads of fun, which can be useful in stressful times. Not my first Cadfael or my last.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
If there is a disappearance of a noble lady heading to a nunnery along with very valuable items to give to the nunnery, then there has to be a murder & thievery. Or was it? An old worn out monk whose deeds were well known & a mute brother monk arrive after his monastery is destroyed. The mystery deepens when Cadfael discovers there is more to this story than it looks. Hmm, there's a lot to untangle but it is "an excellent mystery." ( )
  walterhistory | Jul 16, 2022 |
This is the first Cadfael book I've read. Although I enjoyed the setting quite a bit, the clues were horribly obvious, and there was very little sense of mystery throughout. It looks like other reviews on Goodreads say this entry is unique to the series, so I may give another Cadfael mystery a try. ( )
  poirotketchup | Mar 18, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peters, Ellisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chwat, SergeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doleżal-Nowicka, IrenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fredriksson, Karl G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fredriksson, LilianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssens, PieterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kendall, RoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langowski, JürgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leek, HeliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Menini, María AntoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ooide, KenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelitti, ElsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pošustová-Menš… StanislavaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Son, Sŏng-gyŏngTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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August came in, that summer of 1141, tawny as a lion and somnolent and purring as a hearthside cat.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:

In this "enchanting" historical mystery, "medieval England comes marvelously alive" as Brother Cadfael investigates a woman's baffling disappearance (The Washington Post).


In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war??and a mystery.

The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephen has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt, and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely??and totally mute??must seek refuge at Shrewsbury. From the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses something deeper than common vows binds these two good brothers. What the link is he can only guess. What it will lead to is beyond his imagining. As Brother Humilis's health fails??and nothing can stop death's lengthening shade??Brother Cadfael faces a poignant test of his discretion and his beliefs as he unravels a secret so great it can destroy a life, a future, an

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