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Brother Cadfael's Penance

20 (Cadfael Chronicles)

By Ellis Peters

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Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 05 October 1995
The cloistered walls of Shrewsbury Abbey have always protected Brother Cadfael from the raging Civil War. But when fighting escalates between Empress Maud and King Stephen, the war takes a deadly step closer to him. Taken prisoner in the battle for Maud's land is Olivier de Bretagne, Brother Cadfael's own son- born as a result of a brief encouter thirty years earlier. Now Brother Cadfael resolves to plead for his son's release at a peace conference scheduled to take place in Coventry; but there is no sign of Olivier there. After much soul searching, Cadfael makes the difficult decision to break his monastic vows, leaving Coventry without permission- because he knows he must do everything in his power to find his son.

Promotional Information

In his twentieth chronicle Brother Cadfael is involved in an investigation of a uniquely personal nature, for as he observes, 'Before I was a Brother I was a father.

About the Author

Ellis Peters is one of the pseudonyms of Edith Pargeter who wrote several books under her own name and also Peter Benedict, Jolyon Carr and John Redfern. She was the recipient of the Crime Writers Association and the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award. She died in 1995.


In Brother Cadfael's 20th chronicle, Peters deftly binds the medieval monk's new adventure with family ties, moving from issues intensely public to problems determinedly private. Olivier de Bretagne, who (unknown to himself) is Brother Cadfael's son, has been taken prisoner during England's dynastic war between two grandchildren of William the Conqueror. Cadfael is determined to find Olivier, although to do so he must leave the monastery without his abbot's ``leave or... blessing.'' The search begins badly when, at an unsuccessful peace conference, Yves Hugonin, Olivier's hot-headed brother-in-law, picks a fight with Brien de Soulis, a commander who may know where Olivier is held-but won't say. When Brien is found murdered, Yves is abducted by one who holds him responsible for the killing, and then Cadfael has two men to find. In the process, he delicately explores puzzles related to Brien's death and to shadowy deeds in the larger political scene. While Cadfael does his usual excellent sleuthing, Peters succeeds at an equally subtle game, demonstrating how personal devotion can turn to enmity-and how such enmity can be forestalled by justice and mercy. Mystery Guild selection. (Dec.)

'A more attractive and presupposing detective it would be hard to find.' SUNDAY TIMES 'As usual, Ellis Peters writes with quietly compelling expertise and an eye for character.' WOMAN'S JOURNAL

The golden autumn of 1145 finds Brother Cadfael's peaceful world of the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul greatly disrupted when an official courier brings news of a terrible betrayal. Philip FitzRobert, the Empress Maud's greatest champion, has turned his coat and declared for King Stephen, imprisoning 30 of his vassal knights and squires who held true to the Empress. All of this political upheaval should not really affect an elderly monk, but when Hugh Beringer sees the list of imprisoned men, he and Cadfael recognize the name of Olivier de Bretagne. Fans of the series will also recognize the name of Cadfael's son, who was conceived during the Crusades, years before Cadfael was a monk. This young man has cropped up previously, but he is a pivotal character here because it is to rescue him that Cadfael breaks his vow of obedience and leaves his cloistered life. This is the 20th and final entry in Peters's beloved series and one of her best books. Listeners to Stephen Thorne's expert narration will be enthralled by the fascinating details of medieval siege warfare; the poignant ending is guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat. Essential.-Barbara A. Perkins, Irving P.L., TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

EAN: 9780751513707
ISBN: 0751513709
Publisher: Sphere
Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.4 x 1.9 centimetres (0.15 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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1 review(s)
All Reviews
Catherine on
I've been collecting the Cadfael novels & TV series for several years, but they are proving increasingly difficult to find. No bookstores ever have them in stock & promise at least 3 months waiting. Not so with Fishpond - I had the book in 2 weeks after ordering it.

Sad to see the ending of the series, but it was a rousing tale! Ellis Peters really did a good job on this one - moreso than any of the others, it really kept me guessing. A rollicking mediaeval ride.

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