A Morbid Taste For Bones by Ellis Peters

And now, without further ado… much delayed, much cancelled, much reinstated and much ado about nothing! It’s the Morbid Taste for Bones review!

Twelfth century Shrewsbury, and in the Benedictine monastery, the prior has the idea to take a party to a remote Welsh village to acquire the bones of Saint Winifrid – basically as they clearer belong in a monastery rather than an unmarked grave in a village. Naturally, the villagers aren’t best pleased, especially given Prior Robert’s lack of tact when trying to claim the bones. But when the village leader ends up dead with an arrow sticking out of his chest, it’s up to Brother Cadfael, ex-crusader, current-herbalist and would-be sleuth to stick his nose to see if the murderer is someone from the village or someone from the monastery.

Given my predilection for the historical mystery, you may have considered it quite an oversight that I’ve yet to review anything from the Brother Cadfael series – after all, it was the first historical mystery series to be commercially successful (correct me if that’s wrong) and has been filmed with Derek Jacobi as Cadfael. See, that’s him on the cover over there.

But once upon a time, I read a couple of these and wasn’t impressed. But was it my callow youth and short attention span that dismissed these out of hand?

Nope. It’s rather dreadful.

… sorry, dozed off there for a bit. Happened all the time when I was reading this book, as the prose style is so dull. Just remembering it sent me to the Land of Nod for a while. The plot isn’t much better. It takes an age to get going and when it finally does, the explanation for whodunnit is rather stupid. There may have been some minutiae that explained one particular piece of nonsense but, if I’m absolutely honest, I was speed-reading at this point.

People always say, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

See you next post!

Seriously, if you are a fan of Cadfael, I implore you – try this, this or this. Much, much better books all round.


    • Believe me, I was being kind. Other books that I’ve disliked recently, such as An Apothecary Rose, at least weren’t boring, just not great mysteries.

      If someone wants to recommend a classic Cadfael, I might have a look at it… maybe. Until then, I’m steering clear.


      • Must admit, it’s been waaayyy to long since I read one of these, and it seems to have left no impression, so as usual Steve, when you’re right, you’re right – and you’re right!


  1. At the risk of straining our literary friendship, let me recommend “An Excellent Mystery” in the Cadfael series. Also, though not an historical, have you read any of her mysteries written before the Cadfael series, featuring Inspector (I think) Felse? Try “Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Heart,” for example. I rather enjoy Ellis Peters. I seem to recall trying a Tremayne some years ago, and I didn’t enjoy it that much; I do have to try Paul Doherty, particularly given your reviews. (And, speaking of historicals, try Van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries!)
    Les Blatt


    • I knew someone would rise to her defence!

      An Excellent Mystery does sound a little like tempting fate, doesn’t it? Next time I feel so inclined, I’ll check this one out. Cheers, Les


  2. Thanks for taking my suggestion and reviewing this. I read it a few months ago and I would agree for the most part with your review. I found it to be very slow and the writing style did not grab me. I did not find myself caring about any of the characters or what happened to them. Relatively speaking, it’s a short book but it took me a long time to get through. Maybe the books get better as the series progresses, but this one certainly left me wondering why Cadfael is so popular. I really WANTED to like it and tried to fool myself that it wasn’t so bad. I am going to give the benefit of the doubt and try a second one…..eventually.


    • Thanks for the prompt – glad I finished it so that I can be rude about it with authority.

      It is a baffling slow read for such a short book, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll try a later one, if only to put the series to bed permanently.


  3. […] In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel Spoiler Free Reviews of Fair Play Detective Fiction Skip to content HomePaul DohertyHugh CorbettThe Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother AthelstanAmerotke, Chief Judge of ThebesThe Journals of Roger ShallotThe Canterbury TalesThe Ancient Rome MysteriesMathilde of WestminsterAlexander The GreatKathryn SwinbrookeOther Historical MysteriesAlys ClareAriana FranklinSteve HockensmithMichael JecksBernard KnightPeter TremayneEllery QueenSir Henry MerrivaleChallenges2012 ChallengesThe Mystery Tour of the USASherlock HolmesThe Author ← A Morbid Taste For Bones by Ellis Peters […]


  4. I agree with you. Dullsville. I’ve never finished any of her books. Zzzzzz… But I loved Jacobi in the TV series. I wonder what her non-fiction history books are like? Not that I’ll ever attempt one of them.


    • I have a vague memory of starting an Inspector Felse story, but not finishing it. But this was probably twenty years ago. I don’t have any urge to return though…


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