Murder at Elmstow Minster – Reviews

If you are thinking about buying my latest book, I hope that the following 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.

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

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 ‘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

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 ‘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 ‘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 ‘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

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