Skip to main content

What‘s in a Name challenge review: The Raven in the Foregate, by Ellis Peters

Here is my first What‘s in a Name challenge book: item no. 2, the something you'd see in the sky, that thing of course being a raven.

I have been making my way through the Brother Cadfael series in order of publication for the last several years, going rather slowly because I have been picking them up from second hand book shops, flea market stalls and BookMooch, knowing I would want to keep them after reading them. This is the 12th in the series out of 21, so I am a little over halfway there.

The parish priest of Holy Cross, commonly called the Foregate because it lies just outside the walls of the abbey, dies and the Abbot of Saint Peter and Saint Paul brings back from a visit to his bishop a priest to replace him. But the priest clashes with his flock due to his inflexibility and lack of humility and kindness. When he is found drowned in the mill-pond on Christmas Day with a suspicious wound on the back of his head, foul play is suspected and Brother Cadfael and sheriff Beringar, now finally officially the holder of his office, set out to find the truth.

To complicate matters a young man, a follower of Empress Maud, on the run from King Stephen‘s men, is hiding in the abbey and known to Cadfael for having good reason for committing the murder. But the monk‘s insight and knowledge of human nature tells him the young spy is innocent. But who hated the priest enough to knock him over the head and throw him in the mill-pond to drown?

I was rather disappointed by the last two books in the series, the weird Pilgrim of Hate, which was more psychological thriller than a mystery, and An Excellent Mystery which was, if anything, a love story rather than a mystery, the clues dropped being a little too broad for it to remain mysterious for long. This, however, is a real mystery that will keep the reader guessing either until light dawns just ahead of the sleuths, or possibly only when the truth is revealed. The mystery is enthralling and I was kept looking for clues at every turn.

This novel has its good and bad points, among the best being Cadfael himself and his whole world, including the (for me) fascinating rite and ritual of the medieval Catholic church. The obligatory romantic element, however, has often been done better. The disguised youngster trope is there, the charming young man and strong-willed young woman who discover each other are there, but are as flat as can be, mere cardboard cut-outs copied from previous romantic heroes and heroines of the series.

 However, this novel may infuriate some purists, for the reason of soundly breaking S.S. van Dine‘s rules of mystery writing twice somewhere along the way. The first break with van Dine is the romance element, which is to be expected in most of Peters‘ mysteries, but the other? You‘ll have to read it to find out.

For reason of the cardboard-flavoured lovers and a few other small annoyances, I am only giving this novel a score of 3/5.


Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme