Fantasy Mystery Comics Non-Fiction Fiction

The Sanctuary Sparrow

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983) Ellis Peters

Set in England in 1140

A young man is chased to the church by a mob howling for his blood, claiming he murdered the goldsmith at his son’s wedding.

“If the law itself were here, there is no power can now take away this man from the sanctuary he has sought. You should know the right of it as well as I, and the peril, body and soul, to any who dare to breach that sanctuary. Go, take the pollution of your violence out of this holy place. We have duties here which your presence in hatred defiles. Go! Out!”

I do like the abbot. He’s a strict man, but quite fair.

Cadfael is called to the house to tend to the grandmother of the groom, a shocking old and contentious woman.

“You should keep this foot up,” said Cadfael, cleaning the small but ugly lesion with a pad of linen, and applying a new dressing. “As you know very well, and have been told all too often. I wonder if I should not rather be telling you to stamp about upon it day-long— then you might do the opposite and let it heal.”

Peters, Ellis. The Sanctuary Sparrow (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Book 7) (p. 178). Road. Kindle Edition.

And that helps embroil him in the assault, for he realizes the young man hiding in the church could not have done the things of which he was accused (never mind the goldsmith’s treasure wasn’t found on him).

But of course the mystery isn’t the only good thing about this series. Take this description of an older husband and his young wife.

“And how long it will take,” she retorted, pouting. “Three or four nights solitary. And you’d better bring me something nice to sweeten me for it when you return.”

As she knew he would. He never came back from any journey but he brought her a gift to keep her sweet. He had bought her, but there was enough of cold sense in him, below his doting, to know that he had to buy her over and over again if he wanted to keep her. The day he acknowledged it, and examined the implications, she might well go in fear for her slender throat, for he was an arrogant and possessive man.

There’s also this heart-breaking passage of a lover and a father reacting to the death of a young woman.

Iestyn laid her in the piled hay, and got to his feet slowly. The climbing sun fingered the knotted binding of the one bundle they had brought up here with them. His dulled eyes fell upon it, and flamed. He plucked it from the floor, and hurled it out through the hatch, to burst asunder in the grass of the meadow, scattering its contents in a shower of sparks as the level beams crept across the pasture.

A great howl of desolation and loss welled up out of Iestyn’s throat to bay at the cloudless and untroubled sky:

“And I would have taken her barefoot in her shift!”
Outside in the pasture another aggrieved wail arose like an echo, as Walter Aurifaber grovelled in the grass on his hands and knees, frantically clawing up from among the tussocks his despised gold and silver.

That passage sums up how we can come to feel sorry for the murderer, and understand what drove her to the lengths she took.


Categories: 8/10, British, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read     Comments (0)    

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