Monk's Hood (Brother Cadfael, Book Three)

Monk's Hood (Brother Cadfael Chronicles, Book Three)
Ellis Peters, 1980

See previous reviews in this series: Book One, Book Two

Premise: Cadfael finds himself drawn into a new mystery when a man is murdered on the grounds of the monastery. Gervase Bonel had been in the process of deeding his property to the abbey, after a row with his step-son. Many stand to gain at Bonel's death, and many stand to lose. It's up to Brother Cadfael to determine the truth, especially since the poison that killed the man was stolen from Cadfael's own medical supplies!

This is another solid entry in the Cadfael series. It is notable both for the quality of the red herrings in the story (I honestly only figured out the truth minutes before it was revealed) and for further details about Cadfael's life. For the widow Bonel turns out to be someone Cadfael once knew very well, and that relationship casts suspicion over his investigation.

I like the character of Cadfael so much; as a solver of mysteries he is both familiar and unique. The historical setting makes his stories more interesting to me than stories set in the modern day. His rock-solid sense of truth blends with his keen comprehension of complex situations and political realities. At the same time, he reminds me a little of Holmes, in that his sense of moral, human justice supersedes his allegiance to the letter of the law. He goes further than Holmes would, though, perhaps because the authorities in his time are much less to be trusted to truly seek the truth. His compassion also makes him a very warm and pleasant character to read. Of course, the slyly wicked sense of humor hidden under the practical exterior doesn't hurt one bit.

This volume touches again on the Welsh-British relations that factored heavily in A Morbid Taste for Bones, as well as the theme of love for the land. Everyone wants the mansion and bountiful estate belonging to the deceased, and the mystery eventually centers on not just who stands to inherit, but who cares the most about the place.

I keep enjoying these books. They're pleasant, quick reads, with enough action and intrigue to keep me turning pages, but there's a calm, sort of rooted feeling to the stories that I appreciate as well.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book


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