A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters fulfilled the “Book that Takes Place in an Abbey, Convent, Monastery or Cloister” category for the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. Well, almost. I had some difficulty finding a story for the category. I downloaded Mists of Avalon only to realize I bought the fifty-four-hour version.
Yeah, too long.
I scoured the forums and feeds for another novel. About two weeks ago, I discovered The Cadfael Chronicles, cozy mysteries about a monk in the twelfth century. And he lives in an abbey!
Except in Book 1, A Morbid Taste for Bones, the monks leave the abbey to travel to Wales to retrieve (steal) the bones of a saint who is buried there.
They leave the abbey.
They were only there for two chapters. I feel like I’ve tweaked a few categories for the challenge and this one seemed too big of a cheat. I mean, two chapters are hardly the setting for the book.
I think the second book might be at their abbey. I have to read another book anyway…
A Morbid Taste for Bones takes place in the twelfth century. I’m not a historical buff, but I thought the author did a great job. Ms. Peters placed us back in time without dragging out the history, language, or lifestyle into monotonous historical lessons.
She presented the story as just another story of people living their lives when bad things happen. It’s easy to see she did her research to tell the tale properly in the time period and setting, but she never hit us over the head with it. Well done, ma’am! A good author researches their topic to death. A great author also does so but we never see ninety percent of it because they blend it so well.
Brother Cadfael is the gardener at the Shrewsbury Abbey. He’s lived a full life outside the brotherhood and is spending his salad years in the cloister. This gives our hero great breadth and depth. He’s had many hats in his day and knows things about the world that perhaps other Brothers don’t. He’s kind, witty, and a hard worker. A perfect amateur sleuth.
Without spoiling, I will say that Brother Cadfael solves the mystery in a unique way. Not the usual parlor room reveal or the hero being threatened at the eleventh hour. It was different, and I liked it. The practicality of our hero shows through brilliantly.
You know me by now, I had a few problems that I can’t help but share. Three of the characters’ names were very alike. That was a problem while I listened on audio. The reader was an older gentleman with a thick accent. Whether it was Welsh or English, I could not tell you. But it made it difficult to discern between Cadfael, Columbanus, and Cadwallon. I mixed up the three men several times. Which in a cozy mystery with only a few suspects is a serious problem.
When I write, I try hard to only use one letter per character. If there is a Sam, then I will not have a Sue, Stacey, Steve, or Sigmund. It helps readers differentiate between characters. I once read a historical mystery where two characters had almost the same name. I get historical, yes, but if I can’t keep track of who is who, the history doesn’t matter.
Other than the reader’s accent throwing me off at times (there were spots where I didn’t know what was happening), I enjoyed the story even though it wasn’t at the Abbey. I finished it anyway, on principle.
I give A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters four poppies.