Joyce Lagow's Reviews > Monk's Hood

Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters
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Apr 20, 10

bookshelves: mystery

Respite from the civil war between Maud and Stephen, however temporary, has been restored to Shrewsbury as Christmas approaches. Life in the abbey proceeds as usual when suddenly Brother Cadfael is called to the bedside of Gervase Bonel, who has recently nearly completed the process of turning over his lands to the abbey in return for a guaranteed living under its care. To make matters more interesting, Bonel's wife--to Cadfael's complete surprise ins none other than Cadfael's first love, Richildis, whom Cadfael left behind when he went on the First Crusade. Bonel dies--poisoned with monk's hood. Monk's hood is valuable in relieving aches and pains when applied externally but deadly in small amounts when taken internally. Someone has stolen from Brother Cadfael's own supply and murdered Bonel.[return][return]Suspicion immediately falls on Richildis' son (by her first marriage) Edwin, who has the most to lose if the Bonel lands go to the abbey and the most to gain if Bonel's original will, in which Edwin inherits, stands.[return][return]This is a more or less straightforward 12th century police procedural with Brother Cadfael in the role of private detective assisting the short-sighted forces of law and order. The reader learns a great deal about Welsh land law and the operation of the court system as a crucial part of the plot.[return][return]The climax is very good, although the final outcome may strain the credulity of a modern reader. In this cynical age, it's hard to understand the power of the religious beliefs of that time. Yet it certainly was real by all historical accounts.[return][return]The writing, plotting, and characterization are all standard Ellis Peters, which is to say very good. We're glad to see the recurring characters, both Benedictine and secular; Brother Mark, Brother Jerome, Prior Robert, High Beringar, Abbot Heribert. while we are delighted to see jerome and robert get their noses tweaked, it's still with affectionate laughter.[return][return]An entertaining read. Highly recommended.
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