It's a new affliction and it struck on my birthday, a big bout of Cadfaelitis.
I have never been that interested in the Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters (aka Edith Pargeter) not even when a very good friend, who read every one as it was published back in the 1980s, tried to persuade me. Those were the days when I favoured Susan Howatch and Mary Wesley, but a monastic whodunnit...no thank you.
Nor did I watch the TV series with Derek Jacobi. That continues to pass me by completely.
So when the Kindle Daily Deal arrived in my inbox backalong, and for one day only it was the entire Cadfeal series, all twenty books, for 99p each...and bearing in mind I hadn't purchased a single book in London the day before (though I now think I probably should have bought a signed copy of the new volume of short stories by Hilary Mantel available by the dozen in Foyles) ...well I quickly blew almost £20 on the entire Cadfael series.
Happy Birthday to meeeee...
I don't know what I was thinking beyond that slightly uneasy feeling that I had succumbed to a maketing coup and should have had more sense, but they would all be £2.99 each again the next day wouldn't they (they were) and supposing I had really enjoyed the first one, and they did all have really good reviews, and the friend who had read them was very discerning about her crime reading...that many people can't be wrong.
I'd be kicking myself.
But supposing I didn't enjoy the first one.
Well I took a risk because I have been on the hunt for a detective series that I could immerse myself in for ages now, Jackson Brodie is going to run out after four, and nothing else seemed to fit the bill, but it was a eureka moment...maybe these would...
Brother Cadfael is the abbey herbalist and I have spent a great deal of time reading about herbs and creating a little Physic Garden this year, as well as revelling in a book that Fran introduced me to last year, In a Unicorn's Garden - Recreating the mystery and magic of medieval gardens by Judyth McLeod. Whilst offering an historical overview, Judyth McLeod also elaborates on the society, culture, religion and mythology that surrounded the medieval landscapes, before including helpful indexes of descriptive plant lists and suggested planting plans.
We had stumbled across Mr Pink's Herb Farm in North Devon last year and had come home with something I had been looking for, Costmary (also known as Alecost). A hardy, soft-leaved herb with a really unusual sweet scent, Gertrude Jekyll used to sell it on her herb list, but one tiny plant spread around my little patch like a thing possessed, as well as soaring upwards too.
It has helpfully kept everything else in place but was clearly too big, so I have just dug it all up and moved it to a new herb garden on the outskirts where it can go off on a frolic of its own along with the Woad and the Rue...which thanks to Brother Cadfael I now know is also called Herb of Grace.
I have made a start with the first in the Cadfael series A Morbid Taste for Bones and really enjoyed the gentle flow of medieval monastic life with the odd dead body thrown in. No abbey can be complete without a set of relics and when the monks of Shrewsbury set off across the border into Wales to claim the bones of St Winifred as their own, trouble will undoubtedly brew.
This is what I can only describe as harmless reading (unlike other crime/thriller books I have started and stopped of late which felt quite the opposite) well-written, observant fiction; Ellis Peters was so skilled at setting scenes and characters, no wonder this made it into a TV series. Cadfael himself is a likeable, wise and self-effacing chap and I feel sure his history will emerge slowly as each book reveals more details.
I knew nothing about Edith Pargeter either, but thanks to the Oxford DNB I have read this quote of hers which makes me realise that these books will probably fill a happy little on-off reading niche for me for a while to come...
'The thriller must be a morality tale. If it strays from the side of the angels...takes pleasure in evil, that is the unforgiveable sin...It is probably true that I am not very good at villains. The good interest me so much more...'
Any more bouts of Cadfaelitis out there?