1138, Shrewsbury Abbey. Brother Cadfael is tending his herbs when he is called to the home of Gervaise Bonel, a man who has moved to the area and has willed his estate to the abbey, ahead of his stepson. Bonel is dining with his family and the Prior has sent a special meal for Bonel himself. But by the time it reached his mouth, the dish was laced with monk’s hood, an additive that proves lethal.
Suspicion soon settles on his stepson but Cadfael is not convinced – his past relationship with the boy’s mother means that he trusts her opinion. But with the sheriff pursuing young Edwin, it’s up to Cadfael to keep him out of the hands of the law and to find the real killer.
Book three of the Brother Cadfael series – I’ve visited it before with A Morbid Taste For Bones and An Excellent Mystery (the most incorrectly named book EVER) – and so far, I’ve never been enamoured by it. But as with a couple of other authors, the books are insanely popular – this one (honestly) has a higher Goodreads rating than The ABC Murders – so occasionally I like to revisit the series to try and spot the attraction. It stood out as I was looking for books for Past Offences Crimes Of The Century 1980 meme, so figured it was worth a punt. So did this one do the trick?
Absolutely not. Not remotely. So what’s wrong with this one?
Well, basically, it’s boring. So dull and without a trace of humour. Not that it’s dark, just completely flat. The murderer is obvious – there’s no cleverness to the plotting – and there’s so little to the book that it felt padded in the extreme, and it’s not that long a book. There’s a lovely surprise on the ebook version that the last 20% is a preview of the next book, so it ends much earlier than expected. Very welcome.
Seriously, who actually thinks this is a better book that The ABC Murders? Anyone? Thought not. I’d never say that I’m right and you’re wrong, but I’m coming blooming close in this case. Anyway, I can’t be bothered to waste my energy typing any more on this one. Bleurgh. Not Remotely Recommended. And I won’t be returning to Brother Cadfael. Give me Brother Athelstan any day.
In fact, if any of Cadfael’s fans out there want to disagree, feel free, but do take a look at By Murder’s Bright Light first – only £3 on ebook. And then tell me that Cadfael is the finest medieval sleuth out there…