Reviews

La bara d'argento, by Ellis Peters

lizdesole's review against another edition

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3.0

The setting of a murder mystery amongst medieval monks is promising. However, the book falls into the trap of having the main character be so modern that the the premise falls a little apart for me. I'm intrigued enough to give it at least a second book though. I did appreciate how the author tied in the politics of the day (especially pertaining to the machinations within the catholic church)

notenoughnewts's review against another edition

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4.0

Brother Cadfael’s stories are fantastic. They are very atmospheric and give a great sense of the characters and the setting. The beginning may be a little slower, but the story has a good sense of build up throughout, and I found myself caring very much about not only the identity of the culprit but also the affect on the other characters when they found out. Brother Cadfael is a sympathetic and practical soul, and he is very understanding of the flaws and struggles of his fellow brothers as well as the laypeople around him. The mystery is also solid, and its resolution is very clever and fitting. I’ll definitely be following Brother Cadfael’s adventures further.

fclancy93's review against another edition

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mysterious reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

katjaja's review against another edition

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3.0

I really enjoyed the story. It is the tale of how the benedictine monks of Shrewsbury come by the bones of St Winifred for their reliquiary.

Brother Cadfael, a native Welshman, travels to Gwytherin in Wales with his Prior Robert and a handful of fellow monks seeking to remove St Winifred's bones from her grave and taking them to England. But the people of Gwytherin aren't too pleased about it, and when a murder happens Brother Cadfael begins to investigate.

The village of Gwytherin is a real place in Wales, and does indeed have a St Winifred. The local church is dedicated to her. The monks of Shrewsbury Abbey did travel there in the 12th century to remove her bones to Shrewsbury, so the books is based in part on a real story.

I really enjoy historical novels that elaborate on real events and explore how it could have happened. And this will forever have me wondering about the reliquiary in Shrewsbury.

Audiobook:

The only bit that was a bit annoying was that the reader made all the females sound out-of-breath and overly feminine. When Sioned said "I won't have it, I won't stop until I get my way!" or something of the sort, I would have imagined her stomping a foot and nostrils flaring - instead it sounded like she said "I have to catch my breath, and I'm throwing a sissy fit". But other than that it was a lovely whodunnit, complete with Welsh accents.

pbj_67's review against another edition

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3.0

I have been going through my books and discovered all of thiis old mysteries. I must have picked them up at my granny's house years ago. It has been a pleasant trip down memory lane.

blackoxford's review against another edition

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4.0

Affectionate Sarcasm

This first Cadfael story is about clerical arrogance, deceit, vanity, pettiness, ambition, vengefulness, and ultimately homicide in a 12th century monastic community. It also touches on idolatry and superstition in medieval Britain. And it makes several clever swipes at clerical celibacy and misogyny, miracles, religious piety, and the efficacy of prayer. Yet for all that it cannot be judged anti-religious. It is clearly a work in which there is an underlying appreciation for the ideals of medieval Catholic culture.

Edith Pargeter’s skill in carrying off such apparently contradictory intentions is probably what makes her Cadfael series so popular. What she endorses about Christianity is unstated but understood. It is the character of Cadfael himself, who after a rather full life of adventure - sexual as well as geographical - finds monastic life and its routines to be just what he needs. It is through his eyes that all the deficiencies of the Church are observed and recorded. And yet he implicitly assures the reader that it remains a worthwhile institution.

There is more than a touch of Pre-Raphaelite sentimentality in Pargeter’s prose (captured rather well I think in the cover of my edition). Nevertheless it is impossible for me at my stage in life to disagree with Cadfael’s express motivation for adopting the lowly status of monk: “When you have done everything else, perfecting a conventual herb-garden is a fine and satisfying thing to do.” I understand entirely.

Postscript: I suspect that Pargeter’s St. Winifred is based on the legend of the 12th century St. Frideswide, patron saint of Oxford. The famous Pre-Raphaelite stained glass artist, Edward Burne-Jones, created a large window in Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral in 1858 depicting scenes from her life. The last of these has various of her devotees surrounding her deathbed (see below). In the background Burne-Jones has placed a modern porcelain flush toilet. Pargeter emulates just this sort of tongue in cheek humour in her story.
 photo A24E7C1C-4DB1-43FE-BAC7-E5A9B09D3517_zpsvamuhpxm.jpeg

alfthys's review against another edition

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hopeful reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

carmenghia's review against another edition

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3.0

2.5ish. I'm rounding up because I like medieval settings. The mystery is kind of boring. I think this is one of those occasions where I might actually enjoy the tv version more than the books. I'm going to test that theory and report back.

EDIT: Okay, so 25 minutes into the show I was bored and decided that I actually liked the book better, even though I only sort of liked the book.

arthuriana's review against another edition

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3.0

one of my favourite books involve a crime-solving religious brother sometime during the middle ages, so reading the blurb of this book made me quite sure that this would have been a pleasure to read. suffice to say, it is quite the adventure: its environment is excessively rich, the characters well-drawn, and the narrative quite intriguing; but unfortunately, i didn't like it as much as i thought i would have.

while the story in these pages are quite riveting in its own right, it still lacked the finer details of historical minutiae that i first wanted to have. i have long been interested in religion and history, and religious history mixing the two of them is a match made in heaven—yet sadly while this book delved into either subjects quite well, it never combined the two together. perhaps its recounting of the translation of saint winifred would have been charming years ago, but now it just seems like a historical footnote barely even given the attention it deserves.

yet for what it's worth, i do quite like this book. i'm probably going to pick up the sequel because, again, history-laden mystery narratives with a strong reek of religion hit a certain sweet spot for me. besides, it's well-written and quite rewarding, if i do say so myself. i won't say anything about the mystery itself because, again, i'm usually quite gifted in seeing mysteries a while off and so i was barely surprised; but it does the tricks of the crime mystery genre quite well.

baylee_lasiepedimore's review

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2.0

Non mi era successa una cosa del genere: fin dalle prime pagine di questo romanzo mi era chiaro chi sarebbe morto, chi sarebbe stato l'assassino e quale sarebbe stato il movente. Se avessi letto tanti gialli, tutto questo avrebbe potuto essere comprensibile, ma non è così.

La vicenda è ambientata nel Medioevo, prevalentemente in Galles. Ora, io non ho mai amato particolarmente il Medioevo, quindi sulla parte storica esprimerò un giudizio da lettrice. L'impressione è stata quella di una "contemporaneizzazione" del periodo storico. Ho trovato inverosimili molti dialoghi, che avevano un piglio troppo moderno a mio avviso. Certo, la scorrevolezza del romanzo ne avrà guadagnato, ma si è perso spessore. L'intera faccenda avrebbe potuto essere ambientata in qualunque epoca del passato, senza che questa influisse granché sul corso degli eventi. Sembra che l'autrice avesse semplicemente bisogno di un'epoca senza particolari tecniche investigative.

Poiché tutto il mistero gravita intorno alle reliquie di una santa e l'"investigatore" è un monaco (Cadfael), la religione e alcune sue degenerazioni (fanatismo e carrierismo) trovano ampio spazio. Mi piacerebbe dire che la concretezza del protagonista faccia da contraltare all'arrivismo senza scrupoli e al desiderio di grandezza spirituale. Purtroppo il più delle volte sembra una macchietta. Ha troppo poco spessore per poter scatenare riflessioni nel lettore. Non è abbastanza nemmeno per strappargli una risata. L'unico personaggio simpatico, John, viene fatto "sparire" insieme alla sua miscredenza mille volte più efficace dei discorsi da uomo di mondo di Cadfael.

Tutte le indagini si svolgono tra tentativi e ipotesi piuttosto noiose, visto che da lettrice avevo già intuito come si sarebbe risolto il "mistero". Non c'è stato un solo depistaggio che mi abbia fregata e che mi abbia fatto pensare: "Aspetta un attimo, sarà mica...?". Tutto previsto, tutto calcolato. Vien quasi da entrare nel libro e intimare a tutti di darsi una mossa...