A Rare Benedictine contains three short stories about Cadfael. It was actually written as the 16th Cadfael Book, but is contained in the 7th Cadfael Omnibus together with ‘The Holy Thief’ and ‘Brother Cadfael’s Penance’. The three stories in this book are: A Light on the Road to Woodstock; The Price of Light; and, Eye Witness.
A Light on the Road to Woodstock
While Ellis Peters never wrote a book about Cadfael’s crusading days, this short story shows the moment when Cadfael decided to join the monastery.
Cadfael returned to England from the crusades in 1140 in the employ of Roger Maduit. On his return, Cadfael has no real plans, and agrees to stay on as a man-at-arms to Maduit till the end of a court case that he is involved in. The court case is a land dispute against the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul of Shrewsbury. The Abbey will more than likely win the court case, so, Maduit’s wife suggests a tactic to delay the Abbey’s representative so that the Abbey will lose the case by default.
When Prior Heribert fails to appear in time for the court case, Cadfael is immediately suspicious. The court case ends up being delayed due to the tragic death of the King’s son (which eventually led to civil war) and Cadfael is able to rescue the Prior in time.
Knowing that his fighting days are over, Cadfael decides to join Prior Heribert on his journey back to Shrewsbury.
The Price of Light
After an over-indulgent life, a health scare leads Hamo Fitzhammon to finally think about the future of his soul. Scorning the idea of helping the poor, Fitzhammon decides to donate candle holders and the cost of candles to the alter of St Mary at Shrewsbury Abbey, to gain his place in heaven.
The next night the candle holders go missing. Having found out about some of the goings-on in Fitzhammon’s household, Cadfael is quickly able to determine the thief. But, is it really theft?
While the Cadfael series of books is probably my favourite series of all time, my favourite sleuthing monk book is ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco. I must go back and re-read that soon.
Book Published 1988