Father Eadred

(creator: Lindsay Jacob)

Lindsay Jacob
Father Eadred is a young introspective Anglo-Saxon priest living in the 830s, who describes himself as "a quiet man". He has a slight frame and doleful brown eyes and felt "bedevilled by his own weakness". He would have preferred to be a monk rather than a priest, but his bishop had decided otherwise. According to his friend, the hermit Tatwine, he has the great gift of being a peacemaker and reconciler. He is no stranger to alcohol, but for him "inebriation was seldom acompanied by mirth but to ease the anguish that came upon him when the demon elves had their way".

He was no saint and "had accepted the favours of several young women he had attended", although "after each of his failings, he wept, confessed and prayed for forgiveness and for the strength to resist temptation when it met him once more". He was prone to self-recrimination, although his bishop assured him, " You are destined for great achievements."

Lindsay Jacob was born in East Anglia and attended the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys before travelling and settling in Australia where he read anthropology and economics at Sydney University. He became private secretary to a cabinet minister in the Australian Government and an experienced speech-writer. Murder at Elmstow Minster (reviewed below) is his second novel, but the first to feature Father Eadred. It is self-published and he hopes further Father Eadred novels will follow.

Murder at Elmstow Minster (2021)
Murder at Elmstow Minster is set in the Kingdom of the East Angles in the 830s. Elmstow Minster is a community of nuns that includes a remarkable number of ungodly and promiscuous daughters of the rich and powerful who happily pander to every need of powerful, degenerate benefactors. When two naked bodies are discovered, hanging together, the young priest, Father Eadred, is sent to Elmstow to report back to his bishop. He faces much opposition and there is even an attempt on his life, but he is encouraged by Tatwine, a demon-fighting
hermit who helps him face up to further murders. Then the minster is attacked by a large force of neighbouring Mercians, and Eadred and Tatwine have to fight for their lives, a process they almost get to enjoy as much as the author seems to. This is the liveliest and most interesting part of the story.

It is a remarkably violent tale with bloodthirsty descriptions of everything from trial by hot iron to rape and mutilation. Here is an example:
"Cut off his ears."
A warrior took out his knife and sat across Godric's chest. The prisoner continued to wail and to plead. He twisted and rolled his head to avoid the knife, but his right ear was pulled hard and the knife sawed it from his head.
"Did you kill the the princess and the ealdorman? Answer and we stop. Do not and we continue."
"I cannot." His other ear was sliced away. Godric's head soaked in an expanding pool of blood but still he refused to answer.
"Remove his privies."
And so it goes on. All this violence is no substitute for a story with interesting human relationships.

The blurb claims that the author's "understanding of Anglo-Saxon history is recognised as intelligent and thorough" but his portrayal of human beings can often seem less than convincing. Eadred himself does not really come alive as a convincing priest - indeed he happily makes love to one of the nuns and even contemplates murder. He has been compared to Brother Cadfael (although the Cadfael stories were set 300 years later), but unfortunately he lacks Cadfael's humanity, warmth and reader appeal.

The author has his own blog at https://fathereadred.com/.

Please sign my GUEST BOOK. All comments, contributions (or corrections) welcomed!


murder at elmstow minster cover
The (uncredited) cover is quite striking.
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