What do you look for in a good garden mystery? Does the crime have to take place in a garden? Does the protagonist have to be a gardener? Do you want to learn about plants as the mystery is solved?
For my taste, I like for the crimes to be solved by a gardener and to learn about a few plants along the way when I read a garden mystery. That’s why I like the Brother Cadfael mysteries written by Ellis Peters.
There are twenty Brother Cadfael mysteries in the series, and several years ago, I read them all. I enjoyed the setting of twelfth century England and how Brother Cadfael would be peacefully tending his monastery’s herb gardens, and then get pulled away to solve a murder mystery.
Every time I read these mysteries, I’m reminded of the importance of the herbalist in medieval times. They grew the herbs and provided the potions, tinctures and other herbal brews to treat a variety of ailments. They were sought after as wise and all-knowing, and in the case of Brother Cadfael, as someone who could put together all the clues and help the local sheriff solve the latest murder mystery.
I do recall at times stumbling a bit on how some of the Welsh names were pronounced, and getting a bit lost and tired in some of Brother Cadfael’s recollections of his life as a crusader prior to joining the monastery or the recounting of battles between King Stephen and Empress Maud over the control of England. But those weren’t enough of a distraction to prevent me from finishing each book and eagerly starting the next one.
I’ve kept all the books in this series, and since it has been several years since I’ve read them, I’ve decided I should read them again. This time, I’ll have at my side a companion book, Brother Cadfael’s Herb Garden by Robin Whiteman and Rob Talbot. They’ve listed all the plants mentioned in the mysteries, including where they are referenced and how they were used in medieval times. I’d better hang on to this book as it appears that it is no longer available and used copies have increased in value!
You may also be familiar with Brother Cadfael from the PBS mystery series of the same name. If you enjoyed those episodes of Mystery! perhaps you might like the books, too.
What’s your favorite garden mystery? Post about it or post about the official Garden Bloggers Book Club August-September selection, A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber, then let me know and I’ll include you in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club virtual meeting post on September 30th.
(And please take a minute to complete the book club survey to let me know your choice for the next book club selection. I’ll announce it later this week.)