Troubador Murder at Elmstow Minster

Released: 28/03/2021

ISBN: 9781800462441

eISBN: 9781800469310

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Murder at Elmstow Minster

A Father Eadred Tale


It is the 830s; a time of warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, declining monastic standards and outbursts of fear of divine retribution. Elmstow Minster – a community of nuns in the Kingdom of the East Angles – has been recently established to atone for the execution of a young prince. The minster is torn between two camps – pious nuns and those who have no intention of giving up their worldly ways. These ungodly women are supported by powerful, degenerate donors, who treat Elmstow as an aristocratic whoring nest. The abbess of Elmstow has been humiliated by the influence wielded over her minster by these rich patrons and plots revenge. Two naked bodies are discovered, hanged together.  

A young, introspective priest, Father Eadred, is sent to Elmstow to spy on the declining standards and against his wishes becomes entangled in the task of uncovering the guilty. He challenges the traditional approach of using an ordeal of hot iron to identify the culprits. Instead, he has the novel idea of exploring the evidence. He faces significant opposition, including an attempt on his life. Eadred is befriended by a hermit monk who becomes the only person with whom he can talk about his detection.

Further murders will take place. As Eadred moves closer to the truth the situation is thrown into further disarray when the minster is attacked by the neighbouring kingdom. Can they be saved and the final culprit revealed?

I just finished Murder at Elmstow Minster by Lindsay Jacob and I’m swooning with happiness because I finally found a series (hopefully) that will replace the Brother Cadfael mysteries that I loved. They say that authors should write about what they know and love, and that’s clearly the case. Jacob is actually from East Anglia, where the story is set, and his knowledge of the time and place is so great that I feel that I can hear the church bells ring, smell the fire in the grand hearth, and taste the wine everyone drinks by the goblet.

This historical fiction is set in the 9th century, a time in Great Britain when there was no one government, merely many autonomous regions that were in almost constant battle for power and wealth. The Catholic Church was still forced to rely on Kings and nobility for funding, and piety/chastity was often ignored, even by monks and priests.

Thrown into this morass of conflicts is Father Eadred, a young priest who has little understanding of the rigors of life outside of his Bishop’s cathedral. He is sent to Elmstow on a mission for his Bishop and soon is called upon to solve a series of murders. He becomes adept at searching each crime scene for clues, using his understanding of the motives and methods for each crime. I really enjoyed “watching” him grow up through the course of the book. It is fascinating to see crime-solving accomplished with virtually no scientific aids, just careful thought.

Jacob has given us a group of suspects locked together in an abbey. Father Eadred understands that earthly justice and holy justice may not always coincide, but he is driven to comply with his own understanding of his calling. He also knows that if he cannot find the killer, everyone will have to undergo gruesome trials by faith, a notion he cannot stand.

I Highly Recommend this book to everyone who loves a good murder mystery. It is a great piece of historical fiction that really makes me appreciate the 21st century. Trigger warning : there are descriptions of sexual violence against women.

by NetGalley review

830s A.D. Elmstow East Anglia. Hereburg is the Abbess of Elmstow, but unfortunately against her best efforts it has become a den of iniquity. So Ceolfrith ealdorman of the East Angles has be sent by the King to the minister. Meanwhile Father Eadred has been sent by Bishop Aethelbert to assess the minster and its sins. But death soon arrives. Father Eadred investigates but these will not be the last killings. But before all the guilty parties are discovered, a Mercian force approaches the minster.
An entertaining and well-wriiten historical mystery with its cast of well-drawn characters.

by NetGalley review

Sent to Elmstow Minster in the company of a powerful but lewd ealdorman, the pious and meek Father Eadred is shocked at its condition, populated as it is by wealthy noblewomen who openly commit adultery, flaunt their religious obligations, and live in lavish style. The house's recklessness comes home to roost, however, when several murders take place, and Eadred must summon the confidence wits to discover those responsible and set the Minster's community to rights.

I found this a really interesting read, as it's different in both structure and tone than most (historical) mysteries I read. So often in historicals, the "detective" has anachronistically modern views on many issues. Eadred, however, is exceedingly pious, and often to a degree that's quite off-putting. For instance, I tend to have sympathy for the many women who were holed up in convents against their will due to the wishes of their families; he, however, expresses nothing but disgust and disdain for anyone who steps a foot out of line. That said, the medieval church was a pretty off-putting organization to modern sensibilities, so in a way I appreciate that the author didn't shy away from that side of things in order to make her main character more likable. Additionally, the novel doesn't have the typical format of a mystery novel, with a final "drawing room" reveal--the plot continues to roll along, with various perpetrators and their motives coming to light throughout the last half of the book, even ending on a somewhat unfinished note. As I said, it was a break from the typical mysteries I read, one that I really enjoyed and would like to read more of in the future.

by NetGalley review

This is called a Father Eadred tale and so I think there may be more to come from this writer. The story is set in Anglo Saxon England. The Minster is made up of pious nuns and those that still want earthly pleasures. Young priest father Eadred is sent to monitor the declining standards that have been reported. Murders happen at the Minster and Father Eadred feels very much alone in his search for justice. Others want to use torture to find the guilty but he knows that won’t work. Only a hermit monk can be trusted but then neighbouring kingdom of Mercia. Tries to attack Wessex where the king’s daughter is one of the nuns.
Eadred manages to solve the murders and name the culprits to his bishop who sent him there. There is just one culprit missing so I am sure Father Eadred will be back again.
This is an exciting read that creates the time of Anglo Saxon England brilliantly and sets the scene for more stories by this author

by NetGalley review

In the Kingdom of East Angles in the 830’s Father Eadred is sent to Elmstow. His faith is greatly tested when he finds Nuns sent there by powerful families living a life of luxury. Elmstow is being used by rich donors for their pleasure even the Abbess is not immune from the bleak atmosphere of this place. 2 horrific murders will bring Bishop Aethelbert to oversee the investigation. He appoints Eadred to solve the murders before everyone is put through the ordeal of Hot Iron. Eadred has few friends at Elmstow the Kings Warriors have no respect for him everyone has closed up. This is not an easy read showing the difficulty the church had between its faith and the need for money investment. The pace of the story keeps you waiting for the next surprise round the corner till the very last page.

by NetGalley review

I liked this overall. I like the story, and the characters seemed pretty real. I stayed engaged, and like the "slow burn" ending instead of everything suddenly everything coming together in the end. Maybe a something a little different for mystery fans.

by NetGalley review

A rollicking and truculent fictional journey to the edges of early medieval England when Christian righteousness was still struggling to extinguish the last embers of paganism, Murder at Elmstow is a darkly violent and action-packed whodunit set in a religious institution where lascivious sisters and randy warriors are running totally amok and lawlessness reigns supreme. Charged to investigate the rather dubious activities going on within the minster, Eadred, the winsome but still inexperienced father, finds himself upon his arrival totally overwhelmed by the political, religious and murderous shenanigans engulfing the rudderless congregation.

Fiendishly plotted with enough twists and turns to keep the reader on pins and needles and featuring a cast of violent and often malevolent characters, this terrific murder mystery is also an unforgettable voyage into the violent & tumultuous heart of an uncivilized and brutal world. A very entertaining novel that deserves to be enjoyed without moderation.

by NetGalley review

Take a mystery and put it in a (very) historical context and do it well, and you will win readers over from the first page. The author achieves this here and also paints a very credible picture of the 800s. I liked the characters and, even thought I obviously had no frame of reference for the context, I felt like I could understand their motivations and how they related to each other. Very enjoyable indeed.

by NetGalley review

A gripping and authentic medieval detective story.

Usually I like my historical detective fiction set in 18th or 19th century, so when a NetGalley ARC of “Murder at Elmstow Minster” became available, I thought I’d see what the 9th century had to offer.

The book takes place in the Kingdom of East Angles in the early 9th century and finds young and naïve Father Eadred being sent to Elmstow Minster to investigate the reports of trouble there. His faith is tested when alongside the pious nuns, he finds young women sent there by powerful families living a life of luxury and debauchery. However, when two naked bodies are discovered, hanged together, the Bishop instructs Eadred to investigate the murders. His approach, to examine the evidence rather than immediately put suspects to the hot iron, brings him into conflict with everyone. As Eadred moves closer to the truth the situation gets worse when the minster is attacked by the neighbouring kingdom.

Lindsay Jacob is English but has spent a lot of time in Australia, and I feared this would taint the essential flavour of the book, but not so. He has painted Anglo-Saxon England brilliantly and the language and themes seem totally authentic. All through the story is the idea that the pious, naïve and unworldly Eadred struggles to remain unmoved by the sinful and murderous circumstances he finds himself in. There’s also commentary on the way in which 830s England handled unruly women, and generally how the gentry behaved.

The story moves along nicely, with well-timed reveals and three dimensional characters.

Inevitably, comparisons will be made between this book and Name of the Rose, the Ellis Peters Cadfael series and even Barnard Cornwell’s Kingdom series. And fans of those books will love this. But actually, Lindsay Jacob has made a good job of creating a new and interesting character who will no doubt soon be involved in a new mystery. Heartily recommended.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

Rather good start from what promises to be the first among many.

I have read a great deal of historical fiction, with characters the fictional to the historical, putting on their deerstalkers and turning detective. Jacob's Father Eadred is one of many religieuse sleuths - Ellis Peters' "Brother Cadfael" series will be the foremost on many readers' minds - but he is joining the ranks of Rabbi David Small, Father Brown, Sister Fidelma, Hildegard and over 300 celrical detectives.

A number of murders and just as many motives and suspects - but not at all wrapped in a few pages - the denoument is drawn out to an interesting conclusion.

I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

Father Eadred is a character in the same mould as the famous Brother Cadfael, written by the late, great Ellis Peters. He is a holy man who finds himself required to become a sleuth. Lindsay Jacob writes with the same seductive charm.
The author takes one to the realm of the East Angles in the 830s where King Athelstan and his devout wife have sent their only surviving daughter to the Minster. Soon tragedy strikes and Father Eadred must dig deep to uncover the truth and save the Minster.
Lindsay Jacob has a splendid knowledge of the period and brings it to life with compelling beauty.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

Gripping, page-turning murder mystery story set in the middle ages with the clever but sensitive and vulnerable Father Eadred helping to solve some foul murders in a convent. Refreshingly unusual setting, showing a lot of period knowledge.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

A very enthralling tale, given to us, by a master alchemist, merging the base metals of historicity and skulduggery, into high carat gold.

Yes, I really enjoyed this book as a riveting, flowing read, with so many twists and turns, sizzles and screams and its myriad of surprises!

The story is centred in and abouts Elmstow Minster (Minster=a large or important church, often a cathedral, built as part of a monastery).

It is set in the 830s in the Kingdom of the East Angles, prior to King Alfred and the unification of the Kingdoms, into one United Kingdom of England.

The principal actor of the tale is Father Eadred, a young pup of a priest, whom we see mature and develop as a character, as he torments and prays and plays detective.

I pray and hopefully not in vain, that this tale is the opening curtain, for a long run of Father Eadred detective mysteries!

Original review:

by NetGalley review

Lindsay Jacob

I would be happy to answer any queries about my new book or any of my other writing. Just contact me through my website

I was born in East Anglia, where my joy of history began and attended the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys before travelling and settling in Australia but am a frequent visitor to the UK. I feel drawn to the historical landscapes of my youth in and around the Fens, imagining that the dead are tapping at our feet as we walk over their bones, asking that we remember them, what they did and what they believed. The mysterious Anglo-Saxon period has always inspired me, during which England was formed and when Christianity and pagan beliefs vied for souls. It is in this time that my novel, Murder at Elmstow Minster, is set.

I read anthropology and economics at Sydney University and early in my career became private secretary to a cabinet minister in the Australian Government, when I started putting imaginative thinking into the written word in earnest. I continued writing for senior people until retiring recently. Speech-writing earned me a reputation as an imaginative thinker and creative writer, teaching me useful skills that have translated into fiction writing, especially to put myself in the shoes of my characters and readers. Although my career involved imagining the future, my dream was always to give life to the past.

My understanding of Anglo-Saxon history is recognised. Annie Whitehead, the award-winning historical novelist and member of the Royal Historical Society, has said that my 'research into the Anglo-Saxon period is intelligent and thorough. Jacob's understanding of the age - its cultural mores, sensibilities and its beliefs - informs his writing.' Ms. Whitehead has also said that the premise of this novel 'is wonderful - a Brother Cadfael for the pre-Conquest period.' I have written a number of factual articles in researching for this book and these appear on my websites ( and ( This is my second novel set in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of the East Angles.

Historical murder mysteries are doubly fascinating. A murder is a dark story written by the killers, which they strive to keep secret. We must attempt to uncover, read and understand this story but it is often obscured and confused by false and dangerous trails, lies and missing clues. When murders take place in the distant past, a modern reader must not only get inside the head of the murderer but also decode the culture, customs, conflicts and beliefs of the period. This makes for an absorbing, entertaining plot.

I hope that Murder at Elmstow Minster is the first of a series featuring Father Eadred.


I edited out the glass of wine but kept the happy smile.
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