Cadfael is a mystery series cut from a very different cloth. Based on the novels by Edith Parteger wring under the nom de plume Ellis Peters they take us back to twelfth century England. The central figure is a Benedictine monk Brother Cadfael (played by Sir Derek Jacobi). In total 20 novels were written by Parteger using Cadfael and thirteen of them were adapted for British TV in the 1990’s.

Cadfael was originally aired on British TV in second have of the 1990’s and only three or four episodes a year were produced. The 1998 season for example consisted of three 75 minute episodes, The Pilgrim Of Hate, The Potters Field, and The Holy Thief. These made for TV programs are anything but regular TV fair, they are of cinematic quality and great attention to period detail has been applied.

Our hero Brother Cadfael is part detective, part herbalist, and part humanitarian. What is fascinating to watch is how using his intelligence and crude science of the day he is able to unravel seemingly unsolvable mysteries. Cadfael’s main assistance comes from the local sheriff, Berengar, played by Anthony Green.

One of the things that I really like about this series is the richness of the plot lines and the depth of character development on even transitory subjects. Each program stands alone as a complete unit, you can dip in anywhere in the series and immediately get up to speed.

Having watched all of the programs in this box set, it is hard to name my favorite, though it may well be The Potter’s Field, the good Brothers inherit a field belonging to Lord Blount, and while tilling it they make the grisly discovery of a body. Suspicion immediately points to one of their own. The body could well be the Potter’s wife, Generys, and a year previously the Potter had abandoned her to become Brother Ruald. It is left to Cadfael to unravel the situation, and Cadfael does indeed, in a tale with more twists and turns than an Alpine road, a sordid tale of infidelity emerges. But is Brother Ruald the murderer?

The setting is Shewsbury on the Welsh/England border, interestingly though the series itself was not filmed in the area, it was actually filmed in Hungary. The scenery is green and lush, and captures the mood of the stories perfectly.

The Cadfael Collection is available from Acorn Media, just click on the Cover Art image above for ordering information.

Simon Barrett

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