The Potters Field: The Seventeenth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael

by Ellis Peters

Hardcover, 1990

Call number





Mysterious Press (1990), 179 pages


Fiction. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:The medieval monk digs for clues when a body is unearthed by a plow: "His detecting talents are as dazzling as ever" (Publishers Weekly). When a newly plowed field recently given to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul yields the body of a young woman, Brother Cadfael is quickly thrown into a delicate situation. The field was once owned by a local potter named Ruald, who had abandoned his beautiful wife, Generys, to take monastic vows. Generys was said to have gone away with a lover, but now it seems as if she had been murdered. With the arrival at the abbey of young Sulien Blount, a novice fleeing homeward from the civil war raging in East Anglia, the mysteries surrounding the corpse start to multiply.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Cadfael is called in when a body is found in a field recently bequeathed to the monastery after it's tenant becomes a month. It's the body of a woman, the potter was married but his wife was supposed to have left, but did she. Why is this woman dead and who did it is the focus of Cadfael's
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investigation. This is the seventeenth story in the series and it is quite familiar territory for fans.
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LibraryThing member Griff
One of the more memorable resolutions in this 12th century mystery series involving Brother Cadfael. Surprising twist, with a variety of moral and ethical questions posed as the mystery is solved. One of the best in this excellent series of books.
LibraryThing member Othemts
Mostly exposition about a dead woman found in a field formerly owned by one of Cadfael’s fellow monks.
LibraryThing member DWWilkin
I have been ploughing through these this last few weeks. Ploughing being an intentioned pun. I have told sometimes of the sequencing of a body, of a suspect, of a result if it was too obvious. Well here we have the body in the very first chapter. It works wondorously well. Throughout the series we
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have the vocabulary that Cadfael uses lend further to the depth that these stories give the times. Perhaps not what really took place, but giving the entire series a character.

We see that well fleshed out here. Cadfael and Hugh the Sheriff embark on solving the mystery and whilst doing so we have our red herrings, we have our Peters provided romance, and this time out we have a conclusion that is not so obvious, but is well within the realm of the possible that it satisfies. Certainly, given some of the faults that could have taken place and have had with the previous few novels, this was a solid novel and well worth the time.

We find that the civil war provides some background to the mystery but not as in the past books that without it, there would be no story. We also see a good mix of the perception of the church, and how the church interacts with its flock. This story provides a good return on the investment with Cadfael.

After the Abbey does a deal with another monastery that results in a local field being exchanged, Cadfael is on hand to oversee the first day's work to it when the body is uncovered. As it was previously worked by a new brother to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Paul, suspicion falls on this good man that it is the wife he left behind before taking orders. From there we have a well paced haul to the truth.
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LibraryThing member seoulful
The questionable medieval practice of allowing a man to leave a wife for a monastic calling unleashes a string of misery, deception and death. A dead woman is accidentally uncovered during a plowing of the newly acquired Potter's Field by the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, England.
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Brother Cadfael, the herbalist and amateur sleuth at the Abbey, Hugh Beringar, the able sheriff of the shire and Abbot Radulfus seek justice for this unknown, hastily but decently buried woman. We become acquainted with the honor code in one's family, the transferring of deeds between religious houses, the routine at St. Peter and St. Paul--all against the background of the continuing battles raging around the countryside as Empress Maud and King Stephen struggle for control of the throne. Another page-turner by Ellis Peters.
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LibraryThing member hpagano
The Potter's Field nestles into the category of comfortable detective story that titillates just enough to keep the reader interested, but throughout reaffirms warm, safe, hearth and home values. Although this was the first Brother Cadfael novel I've ever read, it is actually book 18 of 21 in a
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series that definitively ended with the death of the author, Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters is a pseudonym).

Pargeter was an accomplished historian and linguist. Any hopes I had of language playing a role in the mystery were disappointed. However, the detective plot is inseparable from its historical setting, and that inseparability is a hallmark of how successfully Pargeter blended mystery and historical fiction.

Certainly this Brother Cadfael novel pales next to it's monastic medieval mystery cousin, The Name of the Rose. But taken for what it is, The Potter's Field is a pleasant, logically satisfying, and harmless read.
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LibraryThing member jeanned
I'm not sure how this series has managed to stay off my radar for so many years. There are 20 entries in the Cadfael Chronicles, and some of them have been adapted into a TV series by the BBC. The Potter's Field is the 17th in the series and can be read as a stand-alone. Brother Cadfael, herbalist
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and Benedictine monk, assists his friend Sheriff Hugh's investigation when a woman's skeleton is unearthed on a piece of land that has been acquired by Shrewsbury Abbey. The language is important to the atmosphere of the book, as in this passage: "He heard the change in their tread as they emerged upon the solid ground of the Foregate, and saw as it were an agitation of the darkness, movement without form, even before faint glints of lambent light on steel gave shape to their harness and brought them human out of the obscurity."

The series takes place against the backdrop of the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Maud as well as the Crusades, from 1135-1150. The attention given to this historic period would emerge as an influence in Cadfael's life if the series were read in order. I rate this installment at 7 of 10 stars
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LibraryThing member mimal
bookshelves: published-1989, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, medieval5c-16c, war, mystery-thriller, historical-fiction, religion, film-only, poison
Read on January 19, 2014

Description: n October of 1142, a local landlord gives the Potter's Field to the local clergy. The monks begin to plow it,
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and the blades turn up the long tresses of a young woman, dead over a year. Then the arrival of a novice who fled from an abbey ravaged by civil war in East Anglia complicates life even further for Brother Cadfael.

3* #1 A Morbid Taste for Bones
3* #2 One Corpse Too Many
3* #3 Monk's Hood
3* #4 St Peter's Fair
3* #5 Leper of St. Giles
4* #6 The Virgin in the Ice
3* #7 The Sanctuary Sparrow
4* #8 The Devil's Novice
3* #9 Dead Man's Ransom
3* #12 The Raven in the Forecourt
3* #13 The Rose Rent
4* #17 The Potter's Field
3* #18 Summer of the Danes
TR #19 The Holy Thief

2* Flight of a Witch

2* Light on the Road to Woodstock

WL A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury

5* Sunrise in the West
TR The Dragon at Noonday
TR The Hounds at Sunset
TR Afterglow and Nightfall

Adultery and murder, splendid!
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LibraryThing member Meredy
Six-word review: Peters gets a belated second wind.

Extended review:

There's a freshness about Ellis Peters's seventeenth chronicle of Brother Cadfael that hasn't been seen in a while. Perhaps it's that the principal characters (other than the continuing characters of the series) depart a little bit
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from the mold that's become customary; or maybe it's that the setup, although no less bizarre than some of the others, feels a little more as if it had proceeded from some plausible series of events and a little less as if Peters had been consorting with plot ninjas.

At any rate, I enjoyed this one a degree or two more than expected--and of course I expected to, having found the author completely reliable for a comfort read when I need one. I'm heartily sorry to be so close to the end. It's tempting to go ahead and laud The Potter’s Field with four stars; but I can't, quite, in view of how tough I've been on so many other things. Let's call this a 3.7.

I consider a synopsis to be completely irrelevant. It's a Brother Cadfael mystery. I knew what I was getting. Like a Pepperidge Farm cookie right out of the package, it was just what I wanted at the time.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
The remains of a woman are found in a field belonging to a potter who left his wife to entry Cadfael's abbey. At first it is thought the body is the wife, but then the wife is reported alive elsewhere.
LibraryThing member pennsylady
The seventeenth chronicle of Brother Cadfael
Peters, Ellis, 1913-1995. Cadfael chronicles ; 17.

Cadfael, Brother (Fictitious character)
Monks -- England -- Shrewsbury -- Fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.
Historical fiction.
Great Britain -- History -- Stephen, 1135-1154 --
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(Library summary)

A plowed field yields a woman's skeletal remains...
Who is she?... An unusual place for a dignified burial.....
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LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
Cleverly done mystery where a field is granted to the abbey of Shrewsbury and as the monks work the field, they discover a dead body. Who is this woman? Brother Cadfael and Hugh Beringar set out to figure out who this person is and how she died.
LibraryThing member fdholt
A potter's field is generally thought of as a graveyard for the unknown or the indigent. Not so in this novel - the field is one that had belonged to a potter. When the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury obtained the field, they decided to use it for planting crops. What they discovered
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were the bones of a young woman. The potter has come to the Abbey as a novitiate and his abandoned wife was believed to have gone off with a lover. So who is this woman? We are introduced to another young monk fleeing from the terrible war between Empress Maud and King Stephen and his mother as well as various other characters. A mystery to savor.
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LibraryThing member fuzzi
The remains of a woman are uncovered as an unused field is being plowed. Was she the estranged wife of a man who recently took vows to become a monk? The weave is tangled in this one, indeed, and I wasn't sure whodunit until the end, when I discovered how wrong I was. Good twisty mystery.
LibraryThing member walterhistory
The abbey receives land from another abbey & as they prepare the land, a body of a woman shows up. A monk, a novice, & a noble lady are in the center of the mystery. As Cadfael presses to save a young man from being hanged for a crime he didn't commit, he discovers a long buried secret never meant
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to be told.
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Agatha Award (Nominee — Novel — 1990)




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