Friday, June 4, 2010

WSJ List yields A Morbid Taste for Bones – and lots of possibilities!

The What’s in a Name 3 Reading Challenge got me hooked on reading as a competitive sport. But at only six books (five of which I’ve already finished), and with the next round beginning on January 1, 2011, I looked around for another challenge to motivate me to read for the sheer pleasure of reading this summer. Actually, I found four, but three of them will feed into my current uber-challenge, The Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge Summer 2010. It seems that every three months the Seasonal Reading Challenge community comes up with a group of clever tasks that are designed to stretch the participants’ reading horizons. It's a great group, and a whole lot of fun. The Summer 2010 edition began on June 1, 2010, and just plugging books into tasks has expanded both the breadth and the depth of my TBR list.

Take task 5.8, for example: To get the five points, the participant needs to go the Wall Street Journal Top 5 Books list, and choose any title to read. The lists are arranged by genre, and would be a GREAT find for anyone trying to break their old reading habits and try a solid book in a new realm. In a mystery mood, I clicked on Top Historical Mysteries and found 5 possibilities. At least two looked very gory – a red card in my book – but the other three were promising. Ultimately, I chose the first of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, A Morbid Taste for Bones, written by British scholar Edith Pargeter under the nom de plume Ellis Peters.

Despite the title, you won’t find anything ghoulish going on in Brother Cadfael’s Benedictine Shrewsbury Abbey, nor in the Welsh shire of Gwytherin where most of the action in this first volume takes place. This is a straightforward murder mystery, Holmesian in its devotion to deduction, clues leading to more clues and ultimately to the revelation of truth. But Brother Cadfael is no Holmes or Hercule Poirot – a former Crusader who tends the garden behind the monastery walls, but still keeps with him a affection for his former swashbuckling life – including the odd skills necessary therein. When looking for allies in a small Welsh town, he heads for the pub, not the Church: “A sound drinking companion with good sense is what I need.” (A very reasonable idea, I think.)

The “bones” of the title refer to those of the martyred St. Winifred, which the prior of Shrewsbury seeks to relocate to England from Wales in order to enhance the prestige of the abbey. Murder and mayhem ensue as not everyone is pleased to see their saint go – and others are over-eager to have her leave. The book starts slow, but finishes well. It was a very enjoyable mystery, and I would definitely read another in the series. I will also bookmark the WSJ Top 5 List, for the next time I need inspiration for completing a task!

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