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Man But when the sheriff is brought to the abbey he is murdered Suspicion falls on Elis who has fallen in love with the sheriff's daughter With nothing but hi The Cadfael series has a well established reputation of being high uality historical mysteries They do fall into two camps the narrative dominated by the mystery and the book that progresses the historical events that are effecting England at that time This book in the series is part of the latter Much of the story revolves around the civil war and the way the lords of the land manipulated the unrest to their own advantage We return to the border country to the west of Shrewsbury and to the uneasy and turbulent alliance with the Welsh border lords Owain Gwynedd is an honourable man and doesn t want to fight a losing battle with his English neighbours An exchange of men for the seriously wounded Sheriff of Shrewsbury is thwarted when he suddenly dies Cadfael realises the death is an unnatural one and investigatesThe plot is a simple one albeit an enjoyable read So much of the peace of the county rests on determining who was the murderer and bringing them to justice as soon as possible so that the air is clear on both sides Chivalry plays a very important part in the storyline something that is easily forgotten in our contemporary timesThe murder is really the side plot that drives the narrative The real story is the social civil and political unrest during a very messy period often recorded as the Anarchy or petty civil war between Empress Maud and King Stephen

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Dead Man's Ransom

The year is 1141 and civil war continues to rage When the sheriff of Shropshire is taken prisoner arrangements are made to exchange him for Elis a young Welsh The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Book 9 This book follows directly upon The Devil s Novice this ninth episode Peters chooses to delve deeply into the context of conflicts within which the Shrewsbury Shropshire Abbey of St Peter and St Paul finds itself This includes the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud and the border wars between the English and the WelshShropshire stood nearer to the fighting now than it had been for three years being neighbour to an earl of Chester elated by success and greedy for still lands Every one of Hugh s depleted garrisons stood to arms ready to defend its threatened securityPeters does not linger over the battles but she gives us a sense of the politics and strategy then employed Robert had all the disinherited Maud s liegemen who had lost lands eastward for her sake drawn up in the first line horsed with nothing to lose and all to gain and vengeance the first of all And our knights had every man his all to lose and nothing to gain and felt themselves far from their homes and lands and aching to get back and strengthen their own fences And there were these hordes of Welsh hungry for plunder and their own goods and gear safe as sanctuary in the west with no man threateningShropshire has stood for Stephen but in a recent battle Stephen is captured and later so is Shropshire s Sheriff Prestcote Where the sheriff is held and if he is alive what ransom will buy his release are key uestions in the early going Cadfael is just an observer until his uniue gifts are recognized You re Welsh and have your habit for a coat of mail and once across the border you have kin everywhere I reckon you a far better hazard than any battle party With a small escort in case of masterless men and your Welsh tongue and net of kindred to tackle any regular company that crosses you What do you say I should be ashamed as a Welshman said Cadfael comfortably if I could not recite my pedigree back sixteen degrees and some of my kin are here across the border of this shire a fair enough start towards Gwynedd Local politics is in play as well The provost and guildsmen of the town in general were well pleased Prestcote was a man who did not encourage close friendships but Shrewsbury had found him a just and well intentioned officer of the crown if heavy handed at times and was well aware that it might have fared very much worse Not everyone however felt the same simple pleasure Even just men make enemies Without spoiling the plot there is a scene where two young people meet portentously Sir she said having marked the broken rhythm of his walk I fear you are hurt She saw the uiver that passed through him from head to foot as he breathed again No he said hesitant as a man in a dream no never till now Now I am wounded to death I think she said shaken and timorous you do not yet know me I do know you he said You are Melicent It is your father I must buy back for you at a price At a price at a disastrous price at the price of tearing asunder this marriage of eyes that drew them closer until they touched hands and were lostAnother well done effort with the plot and mystery perhaps secondary to the historical context Peters again has given us such informed descriptions of people places and conventional life that I find this aspect gains my full attention Some examples follow Cadfael sat back to study and enjoy the gathering in Tudur s hall over supper the warmth of the central fire the torches the wine and the harping A man of Tudur s status was privileged to possess a harp and maintain his own harper in addition to his duty to be a generous patron to travelling minstrels And with the prince here to praise and be praised they had a rivalry of singers that lasted throughout the meal There was still a deal of coming and going in the courtyard late comers riding in officers from the camps patrolling their bounds and changing pickets He was no novelty in the district about Shrewsbury offspring of a brief union between a Welsh wool trader and an English maid servantLike a pair of hound puppies nursed in the lap Hugh s heir gave off glowing warmth and the baked bread scent of young and untainted flesh Ah that You are thinking that I never yet repented of anything I did and I confess I don t recall such a thing myself No but it was such a comfort and satisfaction to the women They took me to their hearts so joyfully the sweet things a fallen sister retrieved I couldn t forbear giving them what they wanted and thought fitting I am their special pride they boast of me He was too young too open too simple to understand that than half the hatred and revulsion she felt for him belonged rather to herself and her dread that she had gone far towards desiring the death she now so desperately repented

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S Welsh honor to protect him Elis appeals to Brother Cadfael for help And Brother Cadfael gives it not knowing that the truth will be a trial for his own soul This was a Cadfael volume I remembered well particularly the romance in it the Welsh boy Elis and the English girl Melicent instantly struck love at first sight Normally I don t like love stories where the characters find each other too uickly and all they have to overcome in order to achieve their happily ever after are tiresome outside impediments There is enough going on in this story so that s not really an issue like Elis becoming a serious suspect in the murder of Melicent s father True it did drag a little but still a great read So fascinating to learn about history like this as through a back door how normal people lived Leaves me wanting as usual


10 thoughts on “Dead Man's Ransom

  1. says:

    The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Book 9 This book follows directly upon The Devil’s Novice this ninth episode Peters chooses to delve deeply into the context of conflicts within which the Shrewsbury Shropshire Abbey of St Peter and St Paul finds itself This includes the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud and the border wars

  2. says:

    Dead Man’s Ransom aka How to Get Away with Murder is not good I have enjoyed brother Cadfael’s stories so far but I am either getting tired of the formula or the books are getting tired I suspect both I usually enjoyed the mystery and the h

  3. says:

    This is the best combo of love and murder that I've read in an Ellis Peters book Good stuff all around

  4. says:

    3 ½ starsHistory raids and battles play the largest part of any Cadfael mystery in the series up to this pointIn a series pretty well known forview spoiler happy endings and romances blossoming this book was a su

  5. says:

    The Cadfael series has a well established reputation of being high uality historical mysteries They do fall into two camps the narrative dominated by the mystery and the book that progresses the historical events that are effecting England at that time This book in the series is part of the latter Much of the story revolves around the civil war and the way the lords of the land manipulated the unrest to their

  6. says:

    If you ever commit a felony in medieval England try to be young and dumb and in love and certain clergy members will move heaven and

  7. says:

    Dead Man's Ransom contains many elements familiar to readers of this mystery series Brother Cadfael is needed again for a trip into Wales political intrigue and complex loyalties abound and an unfortunate murder both eases and complicates young love There's a pair of star crossed lovers in fact I was rather impatient with Elis and Melicent who fell in love in an instant after exchanging just a single look I guess I'm to

  8. says:

    Cadfael adds 'diplomat' to his resume in this one as he is chosen to negotiate a prisoner swap with the Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd The action opens in February 1141 in the aftermath of the fighting at Lincoln The Shrewsbury men bri

  9. says:

    This was a Cadfael volume I remembered well particularly the romance in it the Welsh boy Elis and the English girl Melicent instantly struck love at first sight Normally I don't like love stories where the characters find each other t

  10. says:

    This book doesn't come up in a title search even if you combine a keyword from the title and the author's name I had to search for it by ISBN # 2015 this seems to have been correctedUp until the middle of this book in the s

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