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Dead Man's Ransom (1984)

de Ellis Peters

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Sèrie: Brother Cadfael Mysteries (9)

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Brother Cadfael must intervene when a prisoner exchange is interrupted by love and murder, in the Silver Dagger Award-winning medieval mystery series. In February of 1141, men march home from war to Shrewsbury, but the captured sheriff Gilbert Prestcote is not among them. Elis, a young Welsh prisoner, is delivered to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul to begin a tale that will test Brother Cadfael's sense of justice--and his heart.   By good fortune, it seems, the prisoner can be exchanged as Sheriff Prestcote's ransom. What no one expects is that good-natured Elis will be struck down by cupid's arrow. The sheriff's own daughter holds him in thrall, and she, too, is blind with passion. But regaining her father means losing her lover. The sheriff, ailing and frail, is brought to the abbey's infirmary--where he is murdered. Suspicion falls on the prisoner, who has only his Welsh honor to gain Brother Cadfael's help. And Cadfael gives it, not knowing the truth will be a trial for his own soul.… (més)
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Summary: Following the Battle of Lincoln, Hugh and Cadfael arrange a prisoner exchange between a young Welsh nephew of Owain of Gwynedd for Sheriff Prestcote, which becomes a murder investigation when Prescote is smothered before the Welsh can depart.

Rebel lords in the north of England betray their loyalty to King Stephen, joining forces with some renegade Welshmen. Stephen leads a force, joined by Sheriff Gilbert Prestcote and Hugh Beringar. The Battle of Lincoln is a disaster. King Stephen is captured along with Prestcote, who is badly wounded. Hugh barely escapes to bring news to Shrewsbury. Meanwhile, a band of Welsh who had joined the battle, raid the convent at Godric’s Ford but are turned back by stout foresters. A young Welshman, nearly drowned, is captured and sent to Shrewsbury. He is a landed nephew of Owain of Gwynedd, who was not involved in the raid and has remained neutral. Elis ap Cynan becomes Hugh’s hope for a prisoner exchange for Prestcote. Brother Cadfael helps arrange the exchange.

Only a problem develops. Elis, while held prisoner, meets and falls in love with Melicent, the daughter of Prestcote, even though he is betrothed back in Wales to Cristina, a spirited young woman toward whom he has never felt more then friendly affection. While in Wales, Cadfael meets Eliud ap Griffith, to whom Elis is a foster brother, though they are brothers in affection and Cadfael notes the “chemistry” between Eliud and Cristina, though Eliud would never betray his foster brother.

Things get more complicated when Prestcote recovers enough for the exchange to go forward. Still very weak, he is escorted by Einon ab Ithel, Owain’s captain, and an entourage that includes Eliud, tending the horses. Prestcote can barely make it to bed, tended by Cadfael. Eliud and Elis unite with Elis telling his plans to see Prestcote, who they expect to oppose a match with Melicent, to plead for her hand. Despite counsel that this is unwise with the man’s weakened condition, Elis goes.

Hours later, Prestcote is found dead, but not, as they first thought, from his wounds and the journey. He had been smothered. Cadfael observes two key pieces of evidence. A pin is missing from atop a cloak lent by Einon and folded nearby. And there are distinctively colored fibers in the victim’s nostrils and beard. Find the cloth they came from and the pin and these may point to the murderer. Since Elis was the only known suspect, he is taken into custody. But neither the pin nor the cloth can be found on him, or indeed anywhere in the precincts of the Abbey. Eliud remains behind as well as hostage. Melicent, believing Elis to be the murderer, disavows her love for Elis and decides to enter the convent at Godric’s Ford. Another suspect, Anion ap Griffri had been staying in the infirmary in the Abbey, feet away from Prestcote’s room. He was recovering from a broken leg that had mended and nursed a grievance against Prestcote and has gone missing.

As you can see, this is a convoluted story with many characters–you have to work to keep them all straight. Hugh has to divide his attentions between the investigation and securing his borders from further attacks and raids, allying with Owain. Cadfael joins him to investigate the murder, pursuing Anion. Beringar leaves inexperienced Alan Herberd to defend Shrewsbury and surrounding areas, including Godric’s Ford, from further raids. They come, with Melicent at the convent.

All this leads to an exciting climax, the discovery of the murderer, and the murderer’s escape from Hugh’s custody through a subterfuge in which Cadfael plays a “wink-wink, nod-nod” role, not actively involved but helping make it possible. It is an interesting plot turn and I wonder how other readers felt about it. As an interesting sidenote, he is assisted by the former Avice of Thornbury, now the resourceful Sister Magdalen. It will be interesting to see if Peters develops this relationship in future stories.

All told, an engrossing story that leaves us wondering how Hugh will fare with Maud in the ascendent and what this will mean for the stability of Shrewsbury and life at the Abbey. ( )
  BobonBooks | Feb 1, 2024 |
Dead Man’s Ransom - Elizabeth Peters
Audio performance by Patrick Tull
3 stars

This was not my favorite of the books in the Cadfael series. I simply couldn’t warm to the impulsive Elis and his instant love at first sight. I still enjoyed this return visit to Shropshire in 1141. Fond memories of listening to cassettes borrowed from the library while I made the rounds as a mommy chauffeur. This is the pivotal book that allowed Hugh Beringar to become the official sheriff. ( )
  msjudy | Jan 3, 2024 |
Atmospheric as always, Dead Man's Ransom is a worthy entry in the Cadfael canon. Set against the backdrop of a raid by Welsh warlords, the book begins with some military and political intrigue more reminiscent of earlier volumes in the series (such as One Corpse Too Many. The mystery unravels after a slow but enjoyable start, with many possible suspects. Highly recommended. ( )
  Lirmac | Jan 2, 2024 |
Febrero del año 1141. Continúa la guerra civil. En la batalla de Lincoln, es hecho prisionero, junto al rey Esteban, el gobernador de Shropshire, jefe directo de Hugo Berengario. Se decide un intercambio: el gobernador por un señor galés, capturado durante un ataque a un convento de monjas. Pero, antes del intercambio, uno de los dos prisioneros muere. Fray Cadfael no tarda en entrar en sospechas de que no se trata de una muerte del todo natural. Por supuesto, sobre él recae la obligación de demostrarlo y encontrar al asesino.
  Natt90 | Nov 11, 2022 |
After a battle up north ends in King Stephen's imprisonment & the disappearance of the town's Sheriff, rumors fly that the Sheriff is still alive but the abbey has no bargaining chip until a foolish noble gets caught attempting to break into a nunnery. The Welsh family agrees to the exchange except that the Sheriff ends up dead in the Abbey's infirmary after the exchange. Cadfael knows there are more than 2 suspects & only one of them carried out the crime. Will Cadfael get to the killer before the bandits return to wipe out the nunnery? ( )
  walterhistory | Jul 12, 2022 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Peters, Ellisautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
BascoveAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Chwat, SergeTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Jacobi, Sir DerekNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Janssens, PieterTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kendall, RoeNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Thorne, StephenNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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On that day, which was the seventh of February of the year of Our Lord 1141, they had offered special prayers at every office, not for the victory of one party or the defeat of another in the battlefields of the north, but for better counsel, for reconciliation, for the sparing of blood-letting and the respect of life between men of the same country - all desirable consummations, as Brother Cadfael sighed to himself even as he prayed, but very unlikely to be answered in this torn and fragmented land with any but a very dusty answer.
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Brother Cadfael must intervene when a prisoner exchange is interrupted by love and murder, in the Silver Dagger Award-winning medieval mystery series. In February of 1141, men march home from war to Shrewsbury, but the captured sheriff Gilbert Prestcote is not among them. Elis, a young Welsh prisoner, is delivered to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul to begin a tale that will test Brother Cadfael's sense of justice--and his heart.   By good fortune, it seems, the prisoner can be exchanged as Sheriff Prestcote's ransom. What no one expects is that good-natured Elis will be struck down by cupid's arrow. The sheriff's own daughter holds him in thrall, and she, too, is blind with passion. But regaining her father means losing her lover. The sheriff, ailing and frail, is brought to the abbey's infirmary--where he is murdered. Suspicion falls on the prisoner, who has only his Welsh honor to gain Brother Cadfael's help. And Cadfael gives it, not knowing the truth will be a trial for his own soul.

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