by Ellis Peters
Series: Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #5
Publication Date: August 27, 1981
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Brother Cadfael has had no time to think about the grand wedding which is to take place in the church at Shrewsbury Abbey and is causing such excitement in the city. The groom is an aging nobleman; the bride a very young woman coerced into the marriage by her greedy guardians. But it soon becomes apparent that the groom, Huon de Domville, is a cold, harsh man -- in stark contrast to his beautiful bride-to-be. Before the wedding can take place, a savage killing occurs, setting Brother Cadfael the task of determining the truth, which turns out to be strange indeed.
For slower paced, traditional mysteries that are very skilfully written, you can’t go wrong with Brother Cadfael. When Peters created a crusader turned monk, she gave herself a large canvas on which to paint a variety of clever, interesting crimes.
The Leper of St. Giles takes place largely in and around St. Giles, the hospice for lepers that lies just outside Shrewsbury, but it’s largely about the wedding of an 18 year old girl, sold off by her guardians for a large portion of her own inheritance, to a cold, unfeeling 60-something land baron who only bought her lands and is taking her on sufferance. Of course she’s fragile and innocent and lovely and of course his squire is around the bend in love with her and incandescent over the injustice of her treatment. And of course the baron ends up murdered.
There’s a plot twist in this book; a rather major one, but it’s telegraphed early on, so that I knew long before it was revealed. It’s a good one, but if Peters hadn’t split the difference, the early guess would have ruined the story. As it is, Peters seems to have covered her bets and kept that reveal from being absolutely pivotal to the plot, making the ultimate solution a surprise, and a tragic one at that.
A few of the series characters readers enjoy aren’t here in this book, but there are other characters that endear themselves to the reader. There’s a bit of humor here and there too, making this a much more enjoyable read than the last, St. Peters’ Fair, which was a good story but dragged. I’d be best pleased if we saw Bran and Joscelin again, though I’m not counting on it.
This is one of the better of the 5 I’ve read so far, and I read it for the center square – Poe’s Raven – on my Halloween Bingo Card for 2020