The Devil’s Novice

This is book 8 of the 21 book series of Brother Cadfael, the Thirteenth Century monk who solves crimes with his friend Hugh Beringar, the undersheriff. The series was written by Edith Pargeter under the pseudonym Ellis Peters. I always enjoy the stories and am slowly making my way through them in the order of publication. This one came out in 1983, with the first one in 1977.

Pargeter’s wrote her first Inspector Felese book in 1951. There are 13 books in that series. She wrote three Heaven Tree books in the ’60’s, four Brothers of Gwynedd in the ’70’s, as well as 27 standalone novels starting in 1936. She had 5 novels published in 1977-79, but after that burst in which she concluded three series and began Cadfael, she concentrated on Cadfael alone until her death in 1995, a year after her last Cadfael book. She wrote 3 non-fiction books and was a translator of Polich novels.

That makes a total of 68 novels plus 3 non-fiction for 71 books. Agatha Christie wrote at least 71 novels (there is some disagreement online). Of course 33 of the novels were of Poirot plus another 54 short stories. David Suchet played the Belgian detective 87 times over 25 years.

Derek Jacobi played Brother Cadfael in 13 episodes produced in Great Britain by ITV and also shown in the US on PBS. You can now watch them on Amazon Prime.

But I digress. Ellis began this series with a great battle between the forces of Stephen and Maud, contenders for the English throne. This story continues being placed in that long war. Cadfael helps a 19-year-old who joined the brotherhood but seemed not to belong. The complexity of the story builds until the last three chapters.

It is a beautifully written story of the competing loves and misunderstandings of family members.

I recommend the whole series.

Mike Lawrence

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