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What Is a Clerical Mystery?

These men of the cloth know how to puzzle out a mystery.

clerical mysteries

In 1977, Ellis Peters brought us A Morbid Taste for Bones, a series of books that focused on a Welsh Benedictine monk, Brother Cadfael, who enters the cloisters in his forties after leading a secular life as a soldier and sailor. The success of this novel is often credited with popularizing the clerical mystery genre. Clerical mysteries intertwine religion and history with mystery storytelling. This could be anything from a nun or a monk to a choirmaster.

Before Brother Cadfael was created, Gilbert Keith Chertserton created Father Brown, who Ellery Queen once ranked as one of the top three fictional detectives. A Roman Catholic priest, Father Brown’s first name is never known, appears almost simple to his colleagues. It is only through his detective work that his true mind is shown. Like Brother Cadfael, the Father Brown character was adapted for successful films and a British television series. Indeed many people only know Father Brown as Kenneth More, the UK-based actor.

It’s Brother Cadfael’s sense of worldly knowledge paired with his spiritual training that had abbots turning to him in need of a detective, doctor, and diplomat. Peters provided a wonderful example of how mystery and religion influence each other and come together harmoniously in the clerical mystery. The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael serves as a rich example of how the tensions between the spiritual and secular worlds exist together.

Want more book recommendations? Check out this extensive list of clerical mysteries.

Featured still via BBC Birmingham