One would think that Abbot Radulfus of the Abbey would have long since confined Brother Cadfael to his herbariu...more1st Recorded Reading: February 11, 2005
One would think that Abbot Radulfus of the Abbey would have long since confined Brother Cadfael to his herbarium to keep him out of trouble; or, more accurately, to keep dead bodies from multiplying with alarming frequency. One wonders if anyone has written a parody of Brother Cadfael, in which he is insane (craftily so) and is actually the murderer of all the dead bodies that pop up near the Abbey. Having said all that, this Fourteenth Chronicle is good, and liberally supplied with red herrings to confuse the unwary reader.
Spring is late to arrive in Shrewsbury in 1142; in fact, the spring thaw does not occur until the first of June. This is a good thing (not least that the crops can now be sown), because the Rose Rent is due to the widowed Judith Pearle on the day of the Translation of St. Winifred, June 22. When Judith was widowed, some four or five years ago, followed by the miscarriage of her only child, she gave her house in the Foregate (where she and her husband had lived) to the Abbey, with the only proviso being that she is to receive one white rose from the rosebush at the house on St. Winifred’s Day. She lives in Shrewsbury proper now, running her weaving business with the help of her cousin Miles Coliar and his mother (her aunt); Niall the bronzesmith lives in the property in the Foregate that was given to the Abbey; he is widowed, and his five year old daughter lives with his sister out in Pulley (some five miles distant).
A young monk, who has been resident in the Abbey since his early youth, has been the designated person to take the rose from the bush to the young Widow Pearle each year; but Brother Eluric asks that he be relieved from the duty this year, as he has fallen in love with the widow, and is tormented by his desire for her. He is relived of the duty; but soon afterward, he is found dead under the rose bush in question, with the rosebush hacked but not destroyed.
It is true that there are those who would like to marry the Widow Pearle, who is in her mid-twenties, most notably Vivian Hynde (whose father owns the largest flock of sheep in the Shire) and Godfrey Fuller, another local merchant in the town. The Abbey (and Brother Cadfael) must determine who killed their monk, and why, and what it has to do with the annual Rose Rent due to Judith Pearle.
I enjoyed reading this book; while I was fairly sure WhoDunIt by the middle of the book, the Red Herrings distracted me (as they are meant to do).(less)
I last read this book (the first in the wonderfully goofy Thursday Next series) back in April of 2005; I felt like re-reading the series again, and I...moreI last read this book (the first in the wonderfully goofy Thursday Next series) back in April of 2005; I felt like re-reading the series again, and I am glad that I am doing so, as I had forgotten how marvelously surreal the world of Thursday Next is (plus, it’s a good more or less mystery book).
It is 1985 in a London and an England that is a bit different than our own; the Crimean War has been going on since 1854 (with no Russian Revolution), at some point England was occupied during the Second World War by the Germans, Wales is a separate truculent republic, the Goliath Corporation (which helped rebuild England after the war) is a shadowy dark presence, as are all Special Operations departments above Level 8 (in fact, no one really is sure what the upper levels are), time travel is a reality (covered by SO-12, the ChronoGuard), and literature is taken very, very seriously. There is serious debate about the flaws in Jane Eyre, which many feel ends badly, with Jane leaving for India with her cousin, St. John Rivers.
Our heroine is 36, and a veteran of the Crimean War; in 1975 she was in the disastrous Charge of the Light Artillery Brigade, and lost her beloved brother in that action. At the time she was in a relationship with her brother’s best friend, Landen Parke-Laine, her brother’s best friend, but they are now estranged. She now lives alone with her cloned dodo Pickwick (he is Version 1.2, without wings, and makes soft “plock-plock” noises) for the last ten years she has been working in Special Operations 27 (out of 30, three from the bottom in respect and funding) in London, which handles the investigation of Literary Crimes. Her father is a rogue Chronoguard, and pops in and out from the future and past at odd times, and her uncle is a somewhat mad inventor.
This is a world in which one can be prosecuted for peddling fake Byronic verse, where hoodlums trade Shelley cards before going off to steal hubcaps, where the person knocking on your door may be a Baconian offering literature on how Bacon really wrote all the Shakespeare plays, and where original literary works are kept under lock and key. However, the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Dickens has been stolen, and Thursday Next (who had advised the museum on their security procedures) becomes embroiled in the search for the shadowy evil mastermind who has stolen the document.
There are several more books in the series, and I look forward to re-reading the ones I’ve already read, and reading for the first time those books I haven’t read yet.(less)