Ellis Peters's fourth Brother Cadfael book, St. Peter's Fair, goes back to the intrigues surrounding the 12th-century civil war between Empress Maud and King Stephen. I wonder if this is setting a pattern, with the even-numbered books being war-related? It's a historical episode I know nothing about, though I have checked who ended up winning (basically, Maud's son Henry II, if you're curious).
The cover copy of the original U.S. hardcover calls this a "Medieval Novel of Suspense," while the original paperbacks appear to label the series "Medieval Murder Mysteries." (The most recent U.S. paperbacks appear to call them just "Chronicles of Brother Cadfael.") I think the hardcovers are more accurate; the mystery component of these varies, at least in the puzzle-like, Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes sense that is my core association with "mystery novel." In this one, the plot and the mystery unfold at about the same speed, and the climax is a, yes, suspenseful confrontation between the villain and an intended victim, not the revelation of whodunnit. That's fine with me; it's perfectly entertaining reading either way.
(While these are rapidly turning into popcorn books for me, I should really pace myself a bit more; there are a few things that might become irritating, taken in big lumps. After the first few pages, I can adjust to Peters' writing style—she apparently thought a comma could and should do everything a semicolon does (is this a British thing?), but there are some hints of unpleasant class-based stuff that might not just be the 12th-century characters talking. I'm not sure, but if I spread those hints out, maybe they won't ruin my enjoyment of the series. Interestingly, the religious component isn't bothering me at all; it's in the background, and while Cadfael certainly believes, I don't feel that the books are trying to shove that belief down my throat as TRVTH. I do wonder if we're ever going to see Cadfael actually make a mistake, though.)
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