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Series of historical mysteries by Ellis Peters, comprising 20 novels and 3 short stories, published 1977-1994.

Brother Cadfael is the herbalist in the Benedictine monastery in 12th-century Shrewsbury. He is a former soldier who became a monk in later life and consequently has a more worldly experience and outlook than many of his colleagues.

Inspired the 1990s TV series Cadfael, with Derek Jacobi in the title role. Also, The BBC adapted some of the books for radio.

Books in this series

  • A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)
  • One Corpse Too Many (1979)
  • Monk's Hood (1980)
  • Saint Peter's Fair (1981)
  • The Leper of Saint Giles (1981)
  • The Virgin in the Ice (1982)
  • The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983)
  • The Devil's Novice (1983)
  • Dead Man's Ransom (1984)
  • The Pilgrim of Hate (1984)
  • An Excellent Mystery (1985)
  • The Raven in the Foregate (1986)
  • The Rose Rent (1986)
  • The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1988)
  • The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988)
  • A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (1988). Short story collection. The first story takes place almost two decades prior to the original Cadfael novel.
    • A Light on the Road to Woodstock
    • The Price of Light
    • Eye Witness
  • The Heretic's Apprentice (1990)
  • The Potter's Field (1990)
  • The Summer of the Danes (1991)
  • The Holy Thief (1992)
  • Brother Cadfael's Penance (1994)

Tropes used in Brother Cadfael include:

  • Amateur Sleuth: Cadfael
  • Arranged Marriage: A frequent trope for obvious reasons. Many specific instances are listed on the trope page.
  • Asshole Victim
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • Cadfael.
    • Also, in the Leper of Saint Giles, there's the titular leper, who despite being seventy and maimed by his disease, manages to best a man in single combat, despite being unarmed while his opponent has a dagger, and then throttle the guy.
  • Benevolent Boss: Cadfael's monastery has two abbots over the course of the series, both benevolent.
  • Bluffing the Murderer:
    • Cadfael does this in A Morbid Taste for Bones.
    • Ermina Hugonin in The Virgin in the Ice.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The characters adhere to medieval values, such as unquestioning loyalty to one's lord, going on crusades, absolute chastity before marriage and ordeal by battle. Cadfael is not so resolute about many of these ideas but he doesn't protest them either. There are heroic characters who think "outside the box" such as protagonist Cadfael or Earl Ranulf and others who are very strict, imbued to the core with feudal values such as Olivier. Still you get the feeling Peters loves Olivier to bits.
    • The noble, landowning characters also put an emphasis on maintaining and adding to their patrimony that may not sit well with modern readers. Even honorable characters like Hugh Berringer are sympathetic to those who switch sides in order to save their property and raiding for loot or extending borders by force is accepted as a matter of course.
  • Exotic Detective: Cadfael
  • Faking the Dead
  • Fix Fic: The Reveal in One Corpse too Many offers a possible explanation for a historical action (kill all ninety-four defenders of the Empress' claim to Shrewsbury) by King Stephen that was totally Out of Character for him.
  • Friend on the Force: Sheriff Hugh Beringar is Cadfael's
  • Genius Bonus: Cadfael's conflicts with Prior Robert and other conservative monks are a microcosm of the intellectual conflict then raging in Western Europe between neo-Aristotelianism and Augustinianism. Neo-Aristotelianism originated in the Middle East, where Cadfael spent his youth.
  • Good Bad Girl: Avice of Thornbury aka Sister Magdalen. Also Eluned from The Raven in the Foregate, a sweet girl who can't say no.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Brother Cadfael is a very intelligent man, quite good at medicine, reading people and bringing the most unnoticeable clues together. He is also remarkably kind and compassionate. Hugh Beringar is also a good and honorable person — and a Magnificent Bastard as well.
  • Good Shepherd: Abbot Heribert, in particular.
  • Historical Domain Character: Many of the secondary characters in the Cadfael novels were based on real persons, including both the abbots, Prior Robert Pennant, King Stephen and Empress Maud, all of the princes and earls mentioned, and even some of the Shrewsbury residents.
  • Historical Fiction: The Cadfael series has been cited in books of Medieval Life for the excellence of its period detail.
  • Karmic Death
  • Literary Allusion Title: An Excellent Mystery (from the Book of Common Prayer).
  • Luke, You Are My Father: In the Cadfael novel The Virgin in the Ice, Olivier de Bretagne turns out to be Cadfael's son by a woman he loved in his young roving days. This has ramifications later in the series, particularly in the final novel.
  • Moustache De Plume
  • My Master, Right or Wrong - Olivier to Empress Maude. He is presented as pure and noble for it instead of gray.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles
  • Never Suicide: Or at least never acknowledge that it is suicide - a mortal sin that would deprive the victim of Christian burial.
  • New Old Flame: Richildis, in the Cadfael novel Monk's-Hood
  • Origins Episode: The short story "A Light on the Road to Woodstock", for Brother Cadfael
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Prior Robert Pennant in the Cadfael mysteries. In Monk's Hood when the abbot is demoted it looks like we're going to see a Tyrant Takes the Helm story, but he is crushed when another man is chosen to be the new abbot.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: The Sanctuary Sparrow.
  • Stealth Pun: The title of The Rose Rent ostensibly refers to the annual rent of a single white rose paid by the Abbey to the owner of a house. However, it could equally refer to the climactic moment in which the bush from which the roses are taken is deliberately damaged (i.e. "rent") and its defender pays with his life.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism
  • Sweet Polly Oliver:
    • 'Godric' in One Corpse Too Many.
    • Also, Brother Fidelis in An Excellent Mystery.
  • Taking the Heat: In Potter's Field a young man tries to take the blame for a murder he believes his father committed - to protect the family name. As it happens his mother knows the truth and it's not what anybody expects.
  • That Old Time Prescription
  • Trial by Combat
  • The Uriah Gambit
  • Viewers are Morons: Some recent American editions change Peters's spelling of Celtic and Norman names, apparently because the publishers think readers are morons. The worst: changing Olivier de Bretagne into Oliver.