(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ellis Peters’s Felse family series and her chronicles of Brother Cadfael are in the British tradition of detective-fiction writers such as P. D. James and Ruth Rendell. These writers’ works, while displaying the careful and suspenseful plotting characteristic of the detective genre, frequently transcend the effect of pure entertainment and share with the traditional “literary” novel the aims of engaging in complex examinations of human character and psychology and achieving thematic depth and moral vision.

Peters herself expressed her dislike for the distinction between detective fiction and serious novels and succeeded in interweaving traditional novelistic materials—love interests, the study of human growth and maturation, the depiction of communities and their politics—with the activity of crime solving. The Brother Cadfael chronicles are her most popular as well as her most impressive achievements, locating universal human situations in the meticulously particularized context of twelfth century England. These novels are masterpieces of historical reconstruction; they present a memorable and likable hero, Brother Cadfael, and a vivid picture of medieval life, in and out of the monastery, in its religious, familial, social, political, and cultural dimensions.

Ellis Peters Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ellis, Margaret. Edith Pargeter—Ellis Peters. Reprint. Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales: Seren, 2003. Literary biography of Peters covering all her works, including the Cadfael series, the Felse family series, and her historical novels.

Greeley, Andrew M. “Ellis Peters: Another Umberto Eco?” The Armchair Detective 18 (Summer, 1985): 238-245. Compares Peters’s Brother Cadfael to Umbero Eco’s William of Baskerville.

Kaler, Anne K., ed. Cordially Yours, Brother Cadfael. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1998. Compilation of scholarly criticism of the Cadfael novels, including discussions of religion, philosophy, and the study of herbs.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Places Peters within a coherent lineage of great women mystery writers, discussing her relationship to her forebears and followers.

Reynolds, Moira Davison. Women Authors of Detective Series: Twenty-one American and British Authors, 1900-2000. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001. Examines the life and work of major female mystery writers, including Peters.

Riley, Edward J. “Ellis Peters: Brother Cadfael.” In The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, edited by Ray B. Browne and Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2000. Examination of the function and representation of history in Peters’s Cadfael novels. Bibliographic references.

Whiteman, Robin. The Cadfael Companion: The World of Brother Cadfael. Rev. ed. London: Little, Brown, 1995. An encyclopedia of the world represented by the Cadfael stories. Includes entries on the herbs grown and used by the monk-cum-sleuth, as well as on the major characters, locations, and properties of the novels.