This was wonderful. I was thinking all through it that I would be giving it four stars because I really have to save the very best books for five star class winners, but then came the end which I adored. So yep, another five star book. This is as good as The Leper of Saint Giles, and that I gave five stars. With that one I was shocked that I could love a book of a mystery series. It astounded me. Now I am beginning to expect Ellis Peters to perform as one of the best of the best, and she pulled it off again.
Here is why I love the books of this series and Ellis Peters:
All the books are about medieval life in Shrewsbury, England. This place really exists. It is not imaginary! I love these books because you feel that you are in that village and you are there at the beginning of the 12th Century. Everything fits. Peters never throws in a detail that is out of time or out of place. There is no modern day slang. Curse words are not thrown around. The dialogs use the words of those times and people, but it is never hard to understand. It all just feels g-e-n-u-i-n-e. Clothing, food, customs, religious beliefs, historical facts, medical practices – they are all here but written in such a fashion that they never, ever become dry, taught or boring. You see the people, you smell the herbs, you too are there at compline…..You are part of that duel, rooting for your hero.
There is humor. Not sad humor, not sardonic humor, but sweet humor. You will chuckle as you watch how two men try to outwit each other. You love them both so this is pure enjoyment. No nasty rivalry.
Sure there are villains, but there are central characters that you love. They are kind and forgiving. They have humility.
If there is a battle it is not gruesomely depicted. There is no glorification in that which is gruesome. If a villain has to be punished surprisingly enough that punishment does not have to be imposed upon by a human. Nature sees that those who have done wrong are punished. So has it been in every one of the books I have read by Peters. I adore this trademark of her writing.
Although these books are centered on life in a Benedictine abbey, where of course religious beliefs are of central focus, never are we lectured about how we must behave or what we must believe. No religion is shoved down your throat. We can all agree about the religious ideas promulgated in the story. Morality, good behavior, kindness, compassion and understanding are qualities we all recognize and aspire to.
One word about why I loved this particular book so much. I love the friendship that you see growing between Hugh Beringar and Cadfael. I loved that King Stephen was NOT drawn as a terrible villain and that the monks stay outside the strife between the two rivaling sides, Empress Maude and King Stephen. I liked how real people are interwoven with characters invented by the author. What impressed me about this particular book was also that this is a love story, and I don’t like love stories, but this was so dam cute to watch. In fact there are two love stories; both were marvelously depicted. I was giggling at the end.
The audiobook narration by Johanna Ward (alias Kate Reading) was just perfect. One must have an English accent when reading this book. How has she so well learned to mimic these villagers of the 1130s?! Monks and King Stephen and beggars and knights, all of them are done to a tee.
I read this with Gundula as a buddy ready. We had so much fun discussing historical details and what we enjoyed. Here is a link to that discussion: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1321406-one-corpse-too-many?utm_medium=email&utm_source=comment_instant#comment_74014041