When is a body one too many? When the official count says 94, yet clearly there are 95! Thus begins the math problem that Brother Cadfael must deal with in “One
Corpse Too Many,” the second in this series.
Who is this extra body?
It is 1138 and all England is astrife with civil war between the factions of Stephen and the Empress Maud. It is an ugly scene, with the church, not to mention the citizens, torn between loyalties. In this instance, Stephen's troops have finally defeated Maud's in Shrewsbury and Stephen's orders are to hang all the surviving soldiers. When this grisly deed is over, Brother Cadfael is called upon to
prepare the dead for a proper burial. But when he commences his duties, Cadfael discovers there is an extra body--a young man who's had his throat slashed.
Cadfael, the venerable and erstwhile former Crusader now Benedictine monk at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, cannot rest until he has identified not only the body but the murderer, and author Ellis Peters unleashes the
hounds in this second episode of the Cadfael series. “One Corpse Too Many” is perhaps the book that establishes the series, although the first one, “A Morbid Taste
for Bones” clearly lays the stage for over 20 Cadfael thrillers. Cadfael is the herbalist at the Abbey and he uses this knowledge--and his view of humankind he
learned in the Crusades--to assist him in solving his cases.
In “One Corpse Too Many,” we are introduced to Hugh Beringer, destined to be the solid, incorruptible sheriff of the county and Cadfael's good friend (Cadfael also becomes godfather to Hugh's child), and to Aline, who becomes
Hugh's wife. Peters' ability to create and then to portray memorable characters is one of her strong points; another is her sense of the power and description of her
episodes. Her ability to invoke landscape and atmosphere make this one historical novel not to miss. She concocts the right amount of romanticism, intrigue, crime,
and humor; she has established an outstanding novel and series.
This report prepared by Bill Hobbs