Graham's Reviews > The Leper of Saint Giles

The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters
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May 10, 09

bookshelves: historical, mystery
Read in April, 2008, read count: 1

My first exposure to the Brother Cadfael series and what an experience! These days, the popularity of authors like P. C. Doherty and Michael Jecks means that the reading public are familiar with historical detective stories, but the long-running Cadfael stories by Ellis Peters helped to popularise this genre back in the 1980s. The Leper of Saint Giles is the fifth book in the series, but it also works perfectly well as a stand-alone offering.

Despite the slimness of the novel, this is a book that has to be read slowly. That’s because of the wealth of detail that Peters brings to her depiction of medieval Shrewsbury and its environs. The reader truly gets a full picture of the political, social and economic surroundings, and the research is exemplary. You live, see and breathe the surroundings, just as Cadfael does.

As for the murder mystery, it’s well-told and expertly paced, with developments and clues being dotted in at regular intervals. The final denouement is effective and believable, and the inclusion of myriad sub-plots involving a leper colony and a secret mistress only serves to add to the intrigue. The characters are both realistic and believable, with dastardly villains and likable good guys. The story may be short on action (excepting a great river chase) but there’s no real place for it amidst the murders and investigations. A great story, well told; I’ll be sure to seek out more in this series as a result.
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message 1: by q (new)

q I generally don't like mysteries much but I loved these, for all the reasons you give. I vaguely recall The Leper of Saint Giles as one of the better ones, but they're all delightful. Well, all the ones I got to; I think I quit around number sixteen when I realized I was about to run out of them. Each of them does stand alone fine, but there's some reward in reading them in order. She wrote them in chronological order, and occasionally things from past novels come up. Cadfael himself doesn't change much, but the abbey and Shrewsbury go through some changes as the years go by.

That was a great review, and I hope you continue to enjoy them that much; I certainly did.


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