Murder at Elmstow Minster – Reviews

If you are thinking about buying my latest book, I hope that this compilation of all the reviews might help you in your decision.

‘The premise of Murder at Elmstow Minster is wonderful. It brings something different to the historical novel – an intriguing murder mystery element.’

Murder at Elmstow Minster – a Brother Cadfael for the pre-Conquest period.’

‘Jacob’s research into the Anglo-Saxon period is intelligent and thorough. His understanding of the age – its cultural mores, its sensibilities and its beliefs – informs his writing’ Annie Whitehead, award-winning historical novelist and member of the Royal Historical Society.

Five Stars ‘I just finished Murder at Elmstow Minster by Lindsay Jacob and I’m swooning with happiness because I finally found a series (hopefully) that will replace the Brother Cadfael mysteries that I loved. They say that authors should write about what they know and love, and that’s clearly the case. Jacob is actually from East Anglia, where the story is set, and his knowledge of the time and place is so great that I feel that I can hear the church bells ring, smell the fire in the grand hearth, and taste the wine everyone drinks by the goblet.

This historical fiction is set in the 9th century, a time in Great Britain when there was no one government, merely many autonomous regions that were in almost constant battle for power and wealth. The Catholic Church was still forced to rely on Kings and nobility for funding, and piety/chastity was often ignored, even by monks and priests.

Thrown into this morass of conflicts is Father Eadred, a young priest who has little understanding of the rigors of life outside of his Bishop’s cathedral. He is sent to Elmstow on a mission for his Bishop and soon is called upon to solve a series of murders. He becomes adept at searching each crime scene for clues, using his understanding of the motives and methods for each crime. I really enjoyed “watching” him grow up through the course of the book. It is fascinating to see crime-solving accomplished with virtually no scientific aids, just careful thought.

Jacob has given us a group of suspects locked together in an abbey. Father Eadred understands that earthly justice and holy justice may not always coincide, but he is driven to comply with his own understanding of his calling. He also knows that if he cannot find the killer, everyone will have to undergo gruesome trials by faith, a notion he cannot stand.

I Highly Recommend this book to everyone who loves a good murder mystery. It is a great piece of historical fiction that really makes me appreciate the 21st century. Trigger warning : there are descriptions of sexual violence against women.’ NetGalley Review

Five Stars ‘A rollicking and truculent fictional journey to the edges of early medieval England when Christian righteousness was still struggling to extinguish the last embers of paganism, Murder at Elmstow is a darkly violent and action-packed whodunit set in a religious institution where lascivious sisters and randy warriors are running totally amok and lawlessness reigns supreme. Charged to investigate the rather dubious activities going on within the minster, Eadred, the winsome but still inexperienced father, finds himself upon his arrival totally overwhelmed by the political, religious and murderous shenanigans engulfing the rudderless congregation.

Fiendishly plotted with enough twists and turns to keep the reader on pins and needles and featuring a cast of violent and often malevolent characters, this terrific murder mystery is also an unforgettable voyage into the violent & tumultuous heart of an uncivilized and brutal world. A very entertaining novel that deserves to be enjoyed without moderation👍’ NetGalley Review

Five Stars ‘What a great read! I was drawn in immediately by the brilliant combination of fascinating characters and a period of history that I know little about, save “The Last Kingdom”. In fact, I devoured this as much as I did that TV series.

The best bits were the author’s character descriptions, especially the human condition of the main character, the real historical period of the early 9th Century, and of course a darn good murder mystery with multiple twists AND no loose ends! Believe me, it’s all good!

The author’s easy writing style tops it off.

Hurry up Lindsay Jacob with another one! Wanna know how Father Eadred’s doing, and what he does next.’ Judy Dawson

Five Stars ‘Father Eadred is a character in the same mould as the famous Brother Cadfael, written by the late, great Ellis Peters. He is a holy man who finds himself required to become a sleuth. Lindsay Jacob writes with the same seductive charm.
The author takes one to the realm of the East Angles in the 830s where King Athelstan and his devout wife have sent their only surviving daughter to the Minster. Soon tragedy strikes and Father Eadred must dig deep to uncover the truth and save the Minster.
Lindsay Jacob has a splendid knowledge of the period and brings it to life with compelling beauty.’ NetGalley Review

Five Stars ‘A tight rhythmical style back to a time where different players held the reins of power. Masterful build up of suspense and intrigue. Nuanced development of character interactions where their purposes cross and really an analogy to today’s individuals crafting their way to realise their ambitions and ultimate purpose. Highly recommended.’ Hugh Saibatsu 

Five Stars ‘Gripping, page-turning murder mystery story set in the middle ages with the clever but sensitive and vulnerable Father Eadred helping to solve some foul murders in a convent. Refreshingly unusual setting, showing a lot of period knowledge.’ NetGalley Review

Five Stars ‘Having previously enjoyed short stories featuring Father Eadred, the book Murder at Elmstow Minster was a windfall. Lindsay Jacob’s extensive knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon era enriches both the characters and the tale. As in the author’s other writing, I relish the descriptions of the surrounding countryside. The landscape often takes on a sense of a presence, a being, rather than merely a waterway or hill. A quote describing Eadred’s view of a river winding through the grounds near Elmstow, “Eadred followed the course readily with his eye, for its damp spirit hovered above its body.” I love reading this.

Reality of the 9th century routines of a priest, lives of slaves, and the station of warriors – both esteemed and hastily recruited, plays out in the pages with all the privileges and drawbacks of the levels of the Anglo-Saxon society.

Eadred is not so keen to leave his ordered, simple life to be dispatched to Elmstow to inquire into a double murder. His reservations are warranted and even his journey to the Minster is discouraging. Elmstow is not a fervently pious religious house with conduct that elevates it beyond reproach. Serious flaws and gashes in the cloistered life are rife, even thrive there, and are laid bare for Eadred to witness and cope with regardless of the effect it has on his confidence and sensibilities. His struggles to perform the task he’s been given show Eadred as a fallible, and sometimes gullible, young priest. He feels himself an unlikely hero, but heroic nonetheless. Like so many of us, he struggles with belief in himself and his abilities but keeps going and gains ground where he can.

The monk Tatwine was a delight and has become a favorite character. I hope to see him again. His exuberance shone rays of light across the pages. The friendship and differences in personalities of Eadred and Tatwine worked a little magic all its own. The characters balance each other.

The mystery of the murders is deeper and more complicated than expected. The plot turns corners again and again, resolving some issues while creating new ones. Elmstow is much more than a murder mystery, but rather a peek into the emotions, flaws, skills, and growth experienced by people so many hundreds of years ago who are more like us than not. I so much enjoyed Murder at Elmstow Minster and look forward to the follow-up!’ Cynthia Boatright Raleigh

Five Stars ‘This is called a Father Eadred tale and so I think there may be more to come from this writer. The story is set in Anglo Saxon England. The Minster is made up of pious nuns and those that still want earthly pleasures. Young priest father Eadred is sent to monitor the declining standards that have been reported. Murders happen at the Minster and Father Eadred feels very much alone in his search for justice. Others want to use torture to find the guilty but he knows that won’t work. Only a hermit monk can be trusted but then neighbouring kingdom of Mercia tries to attack Wessex where the king’s daughter is one of the nuns. Eadred manages to solve the murders and name the culprits to his bishop who sent him there. There is just one culprit missing so I am sure Father Eadred will be back again.

This is an exciting read that creates the time of Anglo Saxon England brilliantly and sets the scene for more stories by this author.’ NetGalley Review

Five Stars ‘This is a fine read, it conjures up so much of the magic and mystery of the depths of 9th century England, particularly the powerful significance of the network of monasteries scattered across the land. Father Eadred, a young priest, has been sent to put to trial the unruly inhabitants of Elmstow Minster, something that will be familiar to anyone who has studied the actual history of this period. But a narrative twist brings the fictional story-telling to the fore when Father Eadred opts for a slightly more sophisticated form of detective work than ordeal by hot poker. Shame, you may cry, but what emerges from the gloom of the Dark Ages is a genuinely gripping story of murder, detective work, and the odd naughty nun and rapacious warrior. The characters are well drawn and the language of sin and repentance that wraps around the book’s drama and intrigue offer an authentic and much-appreciated line of access to the way the Anglo-Saxon world worked. Bit of magic at work here weaving these worlds together.’ Dr Nick Mayhew-Smith 

Five Stars ‘830s A.D. Elmstow East Anglia. Hereburg is the Abbess of Elmstow, but unfortunately against her best efforts it has become a den of iniquity. So Ceolfrith ealdorman of the East Angles has be sent by the King to the minister. Meanwhile Father Eadred has been sent by Bishop Aethelbert to assess the minster and its sins. But death soon arrives. Father Eadred investigates but these will not be the last killings. But before all the guilty parties are discovered, a Mercian force approaches the minster.

An entertaining and well-written historical mystery with its cast of well-drawn characters.’ NetGalley Review

Five Stars ‘I usually choose to read historically based fiction stories and this one did not disappoint.
What was particularly impressive to me with this story was the way one is instantly projected into the minster, the scene of the murder. The storyline takes off and one is immersed. I felt I was there in this medieval setting, watching from the safety of the 21st century.
I Highly Recommend this book to everyone who loves a gripping murder mystery. Having thoroughly enjoyed Lindsay Jacob’s book I am looking forward to the next!’ Charmaine

Five Stars ‘A very enthralling tale, given to us, by a master alchemist, merging the base metals of historicity and skulduggery, into high carat gold

Yes, I really enjoyed this book as a riveting, flowing read, with so many twists and turns, sizzles and screams and its myriad of surprises

The story is centred in and abouts Elmstow Minster (Minster=a large or important church, often a cathedral, built as part of a monastery)

It is set in the 830s in the Kingdom of the East Angles, prior to King Alfred and the unification of the Kingdoms, into one United Kingdom of Engaland

The principal actor of the tale is Father Eadred, a young pup of a priest, whom we see mature and develop as a character, as he torments and prays and plays detective

I pray and hopefully not in vain, that this tale is the opening curtain, for a long run of Father Eadred detective mysteries.’ Bernie Cummins

Four Stars ‘A gripping and authentic medieval detective story.

Usually I like my historical detective fiction set in 18th or 19th century, so when a NetGalley ARC of “Murder at Elmstow Minster” became available, I thought I’d see what the 9th century had to offer.

The book takes place in the Kingdom of East Angles in the early 9th century and finds young and naïve Father Eadred being sent to Elmstow Minster to investigate the reports of trouble there. His faith is tested when alongside the pious nuns, he finds young women sent there by powerful families living a life of luxury and debauchery. However, when two naked bodies are discovered, hanged together, the Bishop instructs Eadred to investigate the murders. His approach, to examine the evidence rather than immediately put suspects to the hot iron, brings him into conflict with everyone. As Eadred moves closer to the truth the situation gets worse when the minster is attacked by the neighbouring kingdom. 

Lindsay Jacob is English but has spent a lot of time in Australia, and I feared this would taint the essential flavour of the book, but not so. He has painted Anglo-Saxon England brilliantly and the language and themes seem totally authentic. All through the story is the idea that the pious, naïve and unworldly Eadred struggles to remain unmoved by the sinful and murderous circumstances he finds himself in. There’s also commentary on the way in which 830s England handled unruly women, and generally how the gentry behaved.

The story moves along nicely, with well-timed reveals and three dimensional characters. 

Inevitably, comparisons will be made between this book and Name of the Rose, the Ellis Peters Cadfael series and even Barnard Cornwell’s Kingdom series. And fans of those books will love this. But actually, Lindsay Jacob has made a good job of creating a new and interesting character who will no doubt soon be involved in a new mystery. Heartily recommended.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘Rather good start from what promises to be the first among many.

I have read a great deal of historical fiction, with characters the fictional to the historical, putting on their deerstalkers and turning detective. Jacob’s Father Eadred is one of many religieuse sleuths – Ellis Peters’ “Brother Cadfael” series will be the foremost on many readers’ minds – but he is joining the ranks of Rabbi David Small, Father Brown, Sister Fidelma, Hildegard and over 300 clerical detectives.

A number of murders and just as many motives and suspects – but not at all wrapped in a few pages – the denouement is drawn out to an interesting conclusion.

 I am looking forward to reading more from this author.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘Sent to Elmstow Minster in the company of a powerful but lewd ealdorman, the pious and meek Father Eadred is shocked at its condition, populated as it is by wealthy noblewomen who openly commit adultery, flaunt their religious obligations, and live in lavish style. The house’s recklessness comes home to roost, however, when several murders take place, and Eadred must summon the confidence wits to discover those responsible and set the Minster’s community to rights.

I found this a really interesting read, as it’s different in both structure and tone than most (historical) mysteries I read. So often in historicals, the “detective” has anachronistically modern views on many issues. Eadred, however, is exceedingly pious, and often to a degree that’s quite off-putting. For instance, I tend to have sympathy for the many women who were holed up in convents against their will due to the wishes of their families; he, however, expresses nothing but disgust and disdain for anyone who steps a foot out of line. That said, the medieval church was a pretty off-putting organization to modern sensibilities, so in a way I appreciate that the author didn’t shy away from that side of things in order to make her main character more likable. Additionally, the novel doesn’t have the typical format of a mystery novel, with a final “drawing room” reveal–the plot continues to roll along, with various perpetrators and their motives coming to light throughout the last half of the book, even ending on a somewhat unfinished note. As I said, it was a break from the typical mysteries I read, one that I really enjoyed and would like to read more of in the future.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘Take a mystery and put it in a (very) historical context and do it well, and you will win readers over from the first page. The author achieves this here and also paints a very credible picture of the 800s. I liked the characters and, even though I obviously had no frame of reference for the context, I felt like I could understand their motivations and how they related to each other. Very enjoyable indeed.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘I liked the premise of this novel very much. Murder mysteries seem to be enjoying an upsurge in popularity at the moment, as do the so-called Dark Ages. So to marry the two together is a brilliant idea. The novel has a very strong opening. The two bodies mentioned in the blurb are indeed discovered, hanging together. What’s not revealed is that there is something unusual about them, and this made me think of the symbolism of the murders in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
After this dramatic opening scene, we then have chapters told from different characters’ points of view, which sets up the mystery nicely. As with all good murder mysteries, and in the style of Midsomer Murders (a British TV Series) a lot of the suspects are involved in the incident but aren’t actually the murderer, so there are lots of false/cold leads, and red herrings, and what ifs – are those who confess to a little bit of wrongdoing definitely innocent of the rest? In terms of the genre, this fits the bill. The plot has been cleverly worked out, the pacing of the reveal is good, and all the clues are there for those who can spot them.
There were a few things which didn’t chime quite so resoundingly for me. At times it was difficult to work out who was talking during the dialogue, and perhaps characterisation has been sacrificed a wee bit in the telling of a complicated story. In fact I’d say that in general there is rather too much dialogue, and the book would have benefited from some judicious editing in this regard – one woman on the point of death, and having fallen to the floor in agony, then continues to speak for too long a time, where even a few gasped words would have been difficult for her to manage.
Most of the book is told from the point of view of Eadred, the central character, but at times we were lifted out of this when Eadred tells us things about his own expression, how he appeared, etc. Again, some editing to tighten this up would help, as would checking the passages where past tense slips into present for a few paragraphs. There was an odd choice of word at times and some clunky turns of phrase. Again, some tightening and trimming would make the prose stronger.
There were some historical details that I would question, though I’m not an expert on this period. I wondered, for example, about all the stone buildings, corridors etc, and given that the enemy were Christians, I found it difficult to believe that they would torture and rape nuns. In the case of those they hoped to ransom this is surely pertinent – you can’t raise a ransom on ‘damaged goods’.
I wasn’t convinced by the denouement, where Eadred suddenly acts out of character in relation to one of the postulants and to the last murderer revealed. I felt he went completely against character and his own beliefs but to say more would be too much of a spoiler.
To sum up, maybe not strictly historically accurate in places and maybe a little too graphic in the detail of violence and sex for some readers. Three stars for the caveats, but four overall for an ambitious project tackled by a novice author and a story which was, otherwise, well executed with a good, strong plot.  It seems that this might be the beginning of a series and if so, I’m sure the author will develop with experience and guidance, gaining a distinct ‘voice’, but I strongly suggest a good technical editor to iron out the wrinkles.’ Discovering Diamonds Review

Four Stars ‘In the Kingdom of East Angles in the 830’s Father Eadred is sent to Elmstow. His faith is greatly tested when he finds Nuns sent there by powerful families living a life of luxury. Elmstow is being used by rich donors for their pleasure even the Abbess is not immune from the bleak atmosphere of this place. 2 horrific murders will bring Bishop Aethelbert to oversee the investigation. He appoints Eadred to solve the murders before everyone is put through the ordeal of Hot Iron. Eadred has few friends at Elmstow the Kings Warriors have no respect for him everyone has closed up. This is not an easy read showing the difficulty the church had between its faith and the need for money investment. The pace of the story keeps you waiting for the next surprise round the corner till the very last page.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘An excellent historically based fiction. Interesting characters with a good story line and clearly the author has done his homework of the period the book covers. Something for everyone in it. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Look forward to the next one.

Should add, really appreciate the quality paper and print which made it much easier for me to read.’ Ron Walter

Four Stars ‘I liked this overall. I like the story, and the characters seemed pretty real. I stayed engaged, and like the “slow burn” ending instead of everything suddenly coming together in the end. Maybe something a little different for mystery fans.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘A very good first introduction to the characters, I found the story carried you along despite being a bit too wordy. A very enjoyable read that I would recommend fully. I am looking forward to reading the next one. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC of this book.’ NetGalley Review

Four Stars ‘The Murder at Elmstow Minster is a tale of murder and intrigue. The period of history used in early England is my favorite period for a novel. The story was exciting and stayed with the period. There was a lot of action and debauchery. There were also misbehaving church people.’ Fred Fanning

Two Stars ‘Murder at Elmstow Minster, is just what you would expect from the title. Set in the 830s at Elmmstow Minster, you have the murder, and then you have pious nuns, not so pious nuns, and priests all getting in the muddle. While I am a religious person, I just didn’t really enjoy all the back story and other goings on, so for that reason, this book wasn’t for me. However, I do still think it was a well written book and worth your time if this kind of subject matter appeals to you. Thank you #NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to give my voluntary and honest opinion on #MurderatElmstowMinster.’ Krista 

‘Just ordered my copy, Lindsay Jacob brings this period to life so brilliantly, will review in due course.’ Dr Nick Mayhew-Smith

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