When Brother Columbanus, a young, ambitious Benedictine in the community of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Shrewsbury starts seeing visions of a Blessed Lady, excitement begins to spread. The abbey is without saint or relic, something that Prior Robert Pennant has been hoping to change. When it transpires that the vision is of Saint Winifred, buried in a supposedly forgotten corner of a Welsh churchyard, a small group head off into Wales, to the village of Gwetherin to acquire the saint’s holy bones. Cadfael, as a native of Wales and the only fluent Welsh-speaker amongst them, is sent along to help smooth the way.
However, on reaching Gwetherin, not all the villagers are happy to relinquish their saint. When the leading opponent is found dead, questions are raised, tensions increase and no-one, not even the holy Benedictine brothers are beyond suspicion…
As part of Historical Fiction Month I thought I would begin the re-visiting of one of my favourite book series (I will be doing the same for another, later on in the month). Brother Cadfael has to be one of the best historical detectives, and his character is just so likeable.
The great thing about the Cadfael stories is that they make the Marches of the twelfth century accessible. The historical detail is clear, accurate and comprehensive, enabling everyone to imagine the world of Cadfael with ease.
The characters come across as realistic and their interplay works so well. From Brother John to Prior Robert, from Bened the smith to Sioned, the personalities of each character is distinct and consistent.
The humour found in the book, although light, is enough to offset the dark subject matter: the disinterring of the body of a young woman, and the murder of a good man.
A Morbid Taste for Bones gets better and better with each re-reading. I am looking forward to re-reading book two in the series, One Corpse Too Many.