The Sanctuary Sparrow

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Author: Ellis Peters

Series: Brother Cadfael

Age Range: Young Teens+

Period: 12th C

Genres:  DetectiveHistorical


Liliwin, a wandering minstrel, is thrown out of Daniel Aurifaber's wedding feast after a jug is broken during his juggling act. Soon after, the groom's father is found senseless beside his empty money box. A lynch mob sets off after Liliwin, who claims sanctuary in the abbey. The next day, the Aurifaber's neighbour is found dead, and the ageing matriarch of their household has a seizure and dies soon after. The following day, the baddies make their escape taking the stolen gold and Rannilt - Liliwin's serving-girl friend - as hostage, but are stopped before the reach the Welsh border.


While written in Ellis Peters' consistently agreeable style, with no few edifying comments on matters of piety, this book is marred by a preponderance of extra-marital lovemaking: the newly-married Daniel keeps a mistress, a fact his wife holds over him when she discovers it; his sister Susanna is with child by the neighbour's journeyman, the realisation of which fact causes her grandmother's seizure; finally Liliwin and Rannilt lie together in the abbey - “equally knowing, equally innocent” - an act which Brother Cadfael brushes off as being “pure of any evil intent”. While there are scenes such as the one by Dame Julia's deathbed which are edifying without being sanctimonious, the book is less wholesome than one expects.

Tuesday 1st January 2002