I read a second book for The 1977 Club hosted by the bloggers Stuck in a Book and Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings. A Morbid Taste for Bones is the first Brother Cadfael mystery by Edith Mary Pargeter writing under the pen name of Ellis Peters. Ultimately Peters wrote 21 historical mysteries set in 12th century Britain featuring amateur sleuth and monk Cadfael. As an introductory novel I thought this was pretty good. At less than 200 pages, Peters deftly set up the world and characters, providing a solid base for the future books.
Cadfael is a Benedictine monk at Shrewsbury Abbey who came to the brotherhood late in life, which of course serves him well as a detective because it enables him to have knowledge his brethren and/or hoi polloi lack! In his secular life he was a soldier and a sailor and spent many years fighting in the Holy Land where he developed an interest in herbs and medicinal plants.
In this first novel, Cadfael journeys with his Prior and a handful of other monks to Gwytherin, Wales to obtain for the broader glory of Shrewsbury Abbey the remains of St. Winefred who is buried there. Prior Robert is an ambitious man and wants to put Shrewsbury on the map, so to speak, by obtaining a reliquary. Their goal is thwarted, however, when local landowner Rhisart objects to the Saint’s bones being moved. When the landowner mysteriously turns up murdered the game is afoot! Did one of the Benedictines murder him in order to get their relics at any cost or did Rhisart have a local enemy who decided to take advantage of the controversy and take out a rival?
I really enjoyed the historical background of the story, the peek it provided into Welsh customs of the day vis-a-vis those of the English and Cadfael as a character. It is possible that there were anachronistic aspects in the book, but I didn’t notice any that took me out of the story. The mystery itself was a little weak. But considering this book is the first of 21, I can easily forgive this.
Some of the books were adapted for television starring Derek Jacobi in the 90’s. I’ve seen bits and pieces of these, but never a full episode, but I expect they are pretty good.