The Hermit of Eyton Forest – Ellis Peters

I’ve been cycling through books recently – I’ve actually got three open books on the Kindle at the moment that I haven’t been able to keep attention on long enough to finish. (I’ll probably nope out on one by the end of the year, and another is a short story anthology that I’m really enjoying, but is incredibly dense to read, so I can’t read it straight through.) I realized I’ve been avoiding my physical book to read pile, and as soon as I looked at that, realized I could do some comfort reading.

This particular edition of this book doesn’t have its order on it (most of the books have “The nth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Paul, at Shrewbury” as part of the cover), so I should have read it a few books ago. Fortunately, the stories are pretty standalone, so other than what’s going on with the ongoing battle between Empress Maud and King Stephen that serves as the backdrop of the stories having events that already happened, the actual events of things in Shrewsbury flowed along quite nicely.

This book is really hard to summarize without giving away plot points. What I will say is that there are two murders here, and the reasons for both, and how the individual murderers are punished are so very reflective of the times of the setting, and I really appreciated that. The end of the book ends up as a discussion between two of the characters about the morality of one of the murders, and it’s not how that conversation would have gone between two people today. I just so appreciate the attention to historical details in this book.


The Potter’s Field – Ellis Peters

I have got to read this series more regularly – every time I come back to it, I enjoy it immensely, and then I wait forever to read the next book.  I realized a while ago I’m basically hoarding the next books’ enjoyment, since it is a finite series.   But is that really a good thing?

Anyway, in this seventeenth story, Brother Cadfael is called in to help survey a new field that has been donated to the Abbey.    One of the local landowners had donated it after the tenant, a potter, had left to join the the abbey as a brother.   The potter had left his wife on the land, but when it became clear that her husband was serious in his vocation, she left.   She had been very angry before leaving, and no one thought much of it.  So now the field is in abbey hands, but when they begin to plow, they find a body there, clearly a woman, but too far gone to be able to clearly determine who she was.

At the same time, the younger son of the landowner who had donated the land has returned from a far off monastery where he had gone to take vows, when it’s become clear to him that it was a mistake to do so.   His fate is tied up with the body found in the potter’s field.

There were some great twists to this book – the identity of the body has several very plausible turns, and even when it’s determined who is truly is, the why came out of left field for me.    I absolutely did not see the final resolution coming, which made for an oddly exciting ending.   I really enjoyed this book.

A Study in Charlotte – Brittany Cavallaro

In this book, we’re introduced to the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Jamie Watson has been given a rugby scholarship to the New England boarding school where Charlotte Holmes is already a student. They’ve never met, but he’s curious to meet her.

Their first meeting doesn’t go well, but it seems that a Holmes and a Watson in proximity have a sort of magnetic attraction, and they’re soon thick as thieves, and forced to defend themselves from accusations of murder.

I enjoyed this story. It’s definitely pitched for the YA audience, but doesn’t shy away from the some of the Holmes family’s less attractive characteristics. It’s got an interesting set up for future action.

In the Market for Murder – T. E. Kinsey

5e869c8ddc08e66596c78787377434f414f4141I had to go find my review for the first book in this series, and I find I have the same complaint about this book as I had in the last. Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo have retired to the English countryside after a life of adventure, and I’m just not getting enough stories of the adventure.

After the previous book, the police have noted the pairs’ detective skills, so when a local farmer who everyone hated turns up dead, they’re enlisted to help. After all, it’s pretty hard to narrow down the suspects when absolutely no one liked the man, including his own family. I will admit, I admired how a theft at the local rugby club ended up being connected. And Flo did get to work a few of her connections from their prior life, but I want more. This is definitely a series I’ll only continue if I can read it for free.

The Darkling Bride – Laura Anderson

0425286436.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is one of those past and present stories, where a brooding location (Deeprath Castle in Ireland) links the past and present together in a mystery. In the present, we have Carragh Ryan, hired to catalog the library of Deeprath. The latest Viscount, Aidan Gallagher, has decided to give the castle away to the National Trust. He hasn’t been back since he was a child, and was the one to find his father, murdered, in the library. His mother was found later the same day, having apparently jumped to her death from the Bride’s Tower, the oldest part of the castle.

Carragh takes the job partially because she’s always been fascinated by Evan Chase, a Victorian author who married Jenny Gallagher, the only heir to the Viscount at the time. Jenny died tragically young, leaving a young son, who Evan Chase left in Ireland when he returned to London. He never wrote again.

Evan Chase was there to research the tale of the Darkling Bride, a fairy story associated with the family back to its Norman routes. Jenny had always associated herself with the Bride, and the painting she had commissioned for her wedding, showing both her, and the Bride, hangs in the room Carragh is given in the castle.

I enjoyed this story. You can pretty much see the plot twists coming from a mile away, though I will admit, it did take me a little while to settle on the murder. Still, it’s very comforting to ready this kind of story – perfect Fall reading.

The Heretic’s Apprentice – Ellis Peters

9ef31c048f16561596749706e77434f414f4141Our story begins when a young man named Elave returns from the Holy Land, bringing back the body of his master, William of Lythwood. They’d left on pilgrimage a number of years ago. Elave had been the clerk for the Lythwood family, and while they’re sad that William is gone, they’re happy to see Elave again.

The family has a foster daughter, Fortunata, who has grown up in the time that William and Elave has been gone. William has sent home a beautiful box to be her dowry.

It’s hard to go into more detail about the story – it’s very detail specific, and all the details are important. (Including why the word heretic is in the title – that’s a tldr in the making.) What I will say is that the reason for the murder is actually set up quite early, and though I noted it as a detail, its importance escaped me. So I had a really good aha moment about who the murder was, and exactly why, barely ahead of the action of the book, even though it had been there to see the whole time. That completely earns my respect – great mystery writing!

The Confession of Brother Haluin – Ellis Peters

057d75cfdc65b27597a72705a41434f414f4141It’s winter in Shrewsbury, and a particularly bad storm puts a hole in the roof of the Abbey. While the brothers are up fixing it, Brother Haluin falls from the roof. His injuries are grave, and they do not expect him to live. Because of this, he makes a confession that Brother Cadfael is there to hear. And then, he lives.

Though his legs were shattered, and he can only walk on crutches, Haluin pledges to make a pilgrimage to the grave of a girl that he wronged before he took his vows, and Cadfael goes with him, to help him along the way. You really need to read the book to get the full sense of the transgression that Haluin is trying to atone for, and exactly how many things on his pilgrimage go so incredibly right to help him do it. It’s a different book than many of the others in this series. There is a murder, but it’s almost a side action. It’s really a story of following your heart when it tells you must do something.

Jane and the Genius of the Place – Stephanie Barron

6d766dcc6677d645939536e5a77434f414f4141In this book, Jane is staying at her brother Edward’s estate in Kent (which he has because he was adopted by a wealthy, childless couple – this is real life detail). While there, they go to the races, where the wife of one of the other local landowners is found dead. Mrs. Grey had not been well liked in the neighborhood – she was French, and Napoleon was poised just across the Channel, making plans to invade. Still, Edward is the local magistrate, and is obligated to the investigate. And as we all know from the previous three books in this series, Jane is not a bad investigator herself, so naturally helps.

This ends up being a really interesting commentary on womens’ lives in Regency England, mixed up with the politics of the war, and with a bit of landscape gardening thrown in for good measure. How the murder ends up working into that ends up being very interesting – I will admit I hadn’t figured it out before the reveal.

These books are definitely anachronistic, but fun enough that I don’t mind.

The Rose Rent – Ellis Peters

2b9bf2c836e179e59746e366667434f414f4141The young widow Perle had donated the house where she had lived happily with her husband to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. She had no need of it – she was also the heiress to one of the foremost weaving families in Shrewsbury, and could live in her family home, away from her memories. She asked only for a single white rose from a bush in the yard as rent.

It’s been a late year for all plants, but the rose comes ready to bloom just in time for the rent payment, only the young monk in charge of paying the rent is found dead beside the rosebush. It’s no secret that several men would like to marry the young widow (and gain her substantial dowry), and it’s up to Brother Cadfael to figure out which one of these men is the murderer.

This is a surprisingly quick tale, perhaps because it plays out at a truly local level, unlike some of the other stories in this series. It’s a great ending – way more interesting than you would think from the initial set up.

Lord Darcy – Randall Garrett

70e1f63cbd8f17159756a756a67434f414f4141This is an omnibus of three books of mostly short stories about Lord Darcy, the chief investigator for Prince Richard, Duke of Normandy, in an alternate world where King Richard the Lion-Heart survived the cross bow attack that killed him in our world. His family is still in charge of an Angevin empire that includes a good chunk of Europe, as well as North and South America.

The books were written in the 60s and 70s, so are set in that timeframe, but it’s a timeframe where science didn’t really go anywhere, and magic is the norm instead. Lord Darcy works with a sorcerer, Sean O’Lochlainn, who’s basically his walking forensics lab. Darcy’s absolutely brilliant, and usually knows who’s done it – it’s just a matter of getting the evidence.

I really enjoyed these books. That they’re mostly short stories was a bonus – it allowed a pretty wide variety of cases. Things were really well plotted, and just really interesting. I think they’ve also aged pretty well – they’re not particularly of their time, so it’s easy to just drop in. My only complaint is that I’m not sure why we had to be reminded every single time he entered that Sean is “tubby”.