Forgotten Book: The Virgin In the Ice by Ellis Peters

this is the 231st in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters, © 1982, Fawcett Crest paperback 1984,
5th in Brother Cadfael series

Virgin in the IceI’ve read many of these Cadfael mysteries, so I’m fairly familiar with the characters, location, historical period. Still, I spent some time reading entries in Robin Whiteman’s The Cadfael Companion to refresh my memory on the historical background since I didn’t recall much about historical events in 1139 when Stephen and Maud were fighting for the crown.

It’s a hard winter. Marauding bandits have been making it even harder for those who hold cotsteads away from the towns. Families are murdered, livestock taken or butchered on the spot. With soldiers away defending King Stephen’s claim to the throne, there is little the locals can do in defense of their property or lives.

Cadfael goes in search of a party of nuns and two older children who have gone missing while trying to escape from a city to the south. Rumor has them attempting to reach Shrewsbury but they’ve not arrived. A Brother of the church, badly wounded, may hold the clue to their whereabouts, but he cannot remember anything. While searching, Cadfael finds a young girl frozen in a stream. Who is she? Is she one of those they have been searching for? How did she come to be there?

This may be my favorite of the Cadfael books I’ve read (all but the final two). The plot, characters, weather and setting combine in the most interesting way of any of the them; mystery, history and human nature are woven together to create a fine puzzle. This one may not be typical in that it has quite a bit of action, but I found it added to my enjoyment of the book.

This is such an excellent series, it’s worth reading and, probably, rereading. This one is quite good and highly recommended.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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13 Responses to Forgotten Book: The Virgin In the Ice by Ellis Peters

  1. I enjoy this series, too. I read the Cadfael books long ago and enjoyed them. I also enjoyed watching the TV series with Derek Jacobi. I liked the earlier books better than the later books.

    • I like the books better, I guess I had a picture of Cadfael in my mind that Jacobi didn’t match. This is one of those series I had “saved” the last couple of books, and should read them now (this was a slightly revised older review I did for The Perp). I think these are worth re-reading.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I haven’t read this, though I remember the Derek Jacobi adaptation clearly. When you go to Shrewsbury you can still see many of the sites featured in the books, which is nice.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    It was great, riding over the old bridge, etc. And there were a couple of bookshops specializing, as you would expect, in Pargeter/Peters books. I picked up a few less common things there.

  4. I got to meet her once at a signing and I should have the book somewhere in the loft – definitely a Cadfael but can’t remember which one right now, but I do remember reading lots in the late 80s / early 90s.

    • These kind of get under the skin. I started with an early one in the series, went back and read the first, and went and bought them all. I’ve portioned them out over time, and now will read the last couple.

  5. I’m doing the same thing with Anthony Trollope novels. I have about a dozen left to read so I’m limiting myself to one per year.

  6. Matt Paust says:

    Embarrassed to admit I’d not heard of this series. You’ve piqued my interest!

  7. tracybham says:

    I should get to reading this series. I have had the first three books for years. The Cadfael Companion sounds like it would help a lot.

  8. Jeff Meyerson says:

    O/T but…my brother informs me that Portland is at 99 degrees today, with 100 predicted tomorrow.

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