The Pilgrim of Hate

The pilgrim of hate is Brother Cadfael's eighth outing in Ellis Peter's historical crime series, which first brought history into mystery. I've dipped in and out of the Cadfael stories, never having read them in order or having found them quite as compelling as other mystery series. However Peters is a very good writer, and the world of Cadfael comes to life under her pen. The Cadfael mysteries are all well plotted, and The pilgrim of hate is no exception, indeed there is a very clever twist in the tail which I certainly didn't see coming.

This was so stunning that I had to include it - this is Shrewsbury Abbey as it was prior to 1836.
The historical background which is of some importance in this novel is not explained terribly well at the opening, indeed there appears to be some assumption that you will be familiar with Empress Maud and King Stephen, and this is momentarily confusing. However as the novel progresses and some detail is filled in, you can soon feel confident that any lack of knowledge will not spoil your enjoyment of the novel or detract from the mystery.

And as it is today after the
buildings to the right were
demolished to make room
for a road. What an act of
vandalism on the part of
nineteenth century town-planners
The characters in this novel are beautifully portrayed - it reminded me a lot of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, where his neat penmanship brings his 600 year old characters leaping from the page. Centring around a pilgrimage event at Cadfael's own abbey Peters brings the joy of the occasion lovingly to life, however she's not afraid to touch on the downsides of the medieval world including murder, the lack of a rule of law, and civil war. She's also not afraid to look at uses and abuses of religion contrasting Cadfael's own abbey with its moral code, gentle kindly monks, and good lay people genuinely touched by their pilgrimage to those who make use of religion to further their own ends even to the extent of protecting murderers. This is a clever crime novel, but also an interesting read for lovers of historical fiction. It has now prompted me to re-read The Canterbury Tales.


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