A review by mintlovesbooks
A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters

mysterious reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


With no relics in the reliquary of Shrewsbury Abbey, its prior sets his eyes on the Welsh village of Gwytherin, hoping to acquire a local saint's relics. The prior puts together an expedition to Gwytherin which includes Brother Cadfael, who is to act as the group's interpreter. Naturally, the people of Gwytherin are not pleased with the prior's plans. However, when the most adamant opponent in the village to moving Saint Winifred's remains is found dead, Cadfael becomes suspicious. He knows that it wasn't Saint Winifred who killed the man; it was a mortal man who must be found. 

This book came highly recommended to me from a cozy mystery group I'm in and it did not disappoint! It's a thoughtful historical mystery set in 12th century Wales with interesting characters and a deeper philosophical message (which is something you don't often see in mystery novels). Brother Cadfael in particular, is an intelligent and empathetic man who also happens to be rather adept at solving mysteries. 

As an irreligious person, I sometimes find it difficult to understand and enjoy books where religion is important to the plot because the references and allusions fly right over my head. Thankfully, that wasn't the case with this book at all, which I really appreciated!

I do recognize however, that this book isn't going to be for everyone. For one, the language used can be a bit difficult to understand (which is understandable, given that it's set in medieval times). But the language, combined with the wordiness, can make for a tough read. It's also a slower-paced mystery. The mystery is not the 'star' of the plot, as it doesn't begin to unfold until several chapters into the book. There are also other plotlines, including the dispute over what to do with Saint Winifred's relics and complicated relationships between characters.

All in all, I really enjoyed this read, and I think mystery fans who are looking for something a little different from the books usually found in the genre might enjoy it too. In 1990, this book was listed in the top 100 crime novels of all time by the Crime Writers Association in the UK. After reading this book, I can see why they included it!

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