Edith Pargeter

Edith Pargeter (28 September 1913 – 14 October 1995), also known by her nom de plume Ellis Peters, was an English author of works in many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and was also honoured for her translations of Czech classics; she is probably best known for her murder mysteries, both historical and modern. She is well known for her medieval-detective series The Cadfael Chronicles. She won the Edgar award for best novel in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman.


Pargeter was born in the village of Horsehay (Shropshire, England). Her father was a clerk at a local ironworks. She was educated at Dawley Church of England School and the old Coalbrookdale High School for Girls. She had Welsh ancestry, and many of her short stories and books (both fictional and non-fictional) are set in Wales and its borderlands, or have Welsh protagonists.


During World War II, she worked in an administrative role in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (the “Wrens”) and had reached the rank of petty officer by 1 January 1944 when she was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year Honours.


In 1947 Pargeter visited Czechoslovakia and became fascinated by the Czech language and culture. She became fluent in Czech and published award-winning translations of Czech poetry and prose into English.


She devoted the rest of her life to writing, both nonfiction and well-researched fiction. She never attended university but became a self-taught scholar in areas that interested her, especially Shropshire and Wales. Birmingham University gave her an honorary master’s degree. She never married, but did fall in love with a Czech man. She remained friends with him after he married another woman. She was pleased that she could support herself with her writing from the time after the Second World War until her death.


Pargeter wrote under a number of pseudonyms; it was under the name Ellis Peters that she wrote her later crime stories, especially the highly popular series of Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries, a Benedictine monk at the Abbey in Shrewsbury. That pseudonym was drawn from the name of her brother, Ellis, and a version of the name of the daughter of friends, Petra. Many of the novels were made into films for television. Although she won her first award for a novel written in 1963, her greatest fame and sales came with the Cadfael Chronicles, which began in 1977. At the time of the 19th in the series of 20 novels, sales exceeded 6.5 million.


The Cadfael Chronicles drew international attention to Shrewsbury and its history, and greatly increased tourism to the town. In an interview in 1993, she mentioned her own work before the Second World War as a chemist’s assistant, where they prepared many of the compounds they sold. “We used to make bottled medicine that we compounded specially, with ingredients like gentian, rosemary, horehound. You never see that nowadays; those tinctures are never prescribed. They often had bitters of some sort in them, a taste I rather liked. Some of Cadfael’s prescriptions come out of those years.”


Her Cadfael novels show great appreciation for the ideals of medieval Catholic Christianity, but also a recognition of its weaknesses, such as quarrels over the finer points of theology (The Heretic’s Apprentice), and the desire of the church to own more and more land and wealth (Monk’s Hood, Saint Peter’s Fair, The Rose Rent).


She died at her home in Madeley, Shropshire in 1995 at the age of 82. She had recently returned home from hospital following a stroke. On 14 September 1997, a new stained glass window depicting St Benedict was installed in Shrewsbury Abbey and was dedicated to the memory of Edith Pargeter, with funds raised by donations from admirers of the author.


Death and the Joyful Woman


Is a vulgarity ground for murder? Alfred Armiger had antagonized many with his greed and crass acquisitiveness. So when the ruthless beer baron is discovered dead, his head beaten in by a magnum of champagne, there is no shortage of suspects.


Death and the Joyful Woman edith pargeter ellis peters


All of Comerford is shocked when Detective George Felse arrests Kitty Norris, the daughter of a rival beer baron, the last person to see Armiger alive, and the main beneficiary of his will. But Kitty, charming and popular, has an unexpected advocate in Felse’s young son, Dominic, who has fallen in love with her. Passionately convinced of Kitty’s innocence, Dominic sets out to find the true culprit, a hazardous undertaking that could cost him his life.


Death and the Joyful Woman is the 2nd book in the Felse Investigations, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.




As Edith Pargeter


The Heaven Tree Trilogy
The Heaven Tree (1960)
The Green Branch (1962)
The Scarlet Seed (1963)


The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet


Sunrise in the West (1974)
The Dragon at Noonday (1975)
The Hounds of Sunset (1976)
Afterglow and Nightfall (1977)


Jim Benison a.k.a. World War 2 Trilogy


The Eighth Champion of Christendom (1945)
Reluctant Odyssey (1946)
Warfare Accomplished (1947)




Hortensius, Friend of Nero (1936)
Iron-Bound (1936)
The City Lies Four-Square (1939)
Ordinary People (1941) (a.k.a. People of My Own)
She Goes to War (1942)
The Fair Young Phoenix (1948)
By Firelight (1948) (US title: By This Strange Fire)
The Coast of Bohemia (1950) (non-fiction: an account of a journey in Czechoslovakia)
Lost Children (1951)
Holiday With Violence (1952)
Most Loving Mere Folly (1953)
The Rough Magic (1953)
The Soldier at the Door (1954)
A Means of Grace (1956)
The Assize of the Dying (1958) (The Assize of the Dying, Aunt Helen)
The Lily Hand and other stories (1965): 1995)
A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury (1972) (US title: The Bloody Field)
The Marriage of Meggotta (1979)


Short stories


Brambleridge Tales


Late Apple Harvest Everywoman’s, October 1938
Poppy Juice Everywoman’s, November 1938
Christmas Roses Everywoman’s, December 1938
Under the Big Top Everywoman’s, January 1939
Meet of the Clear Water Hunt Everywoman’s, February 1939
Lambs in the Meadow Everywoman’s, March 1939
April Foolishness Everywoman’s, April 1939
Happy Ending Everywoman’s, May 1939




Mightiest in the Mightiest. Everywoman’s, March 1936
Ere I Forget Thee. Everywoman’s, July 1936
Coronation Stairs. Everywoman’s, March 1937
Santa Claus Would Understand. Everywoman’s, December 1937
Wrong Turning. Everywoman’s, April 1938
Forty-Eight Hours Leave. Everywoman’s, December 1939
A Girl of Indiscretion. John Bull, 19 October 1953
How Beautiful Is Youth. Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 April 1955. Collected in The Lily Hand
Dead Mountain Lion. Australian Women’s Weekly, 4 April 1956. Collected in The Trinity Cat
A Lift into Colmar. Australian Women’s Weekly, 6, 13 and 20 March 1957. Collected in The Trinity Cat
Young Man with a Pram. Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 October 1957. Collected in The Trinity Cat
The Linnet in the Garden. Australian Women’s Weekly, 12 February 1958. Collected in The Lily Hand
Aunt Helen. Australian Women’s Weekly, 30 April and 7 May 1958. Collected in The Lily Hand
The Purple Children. Australian Women’s Weekly. Collected in The Lily Hand
Chance Meeting. Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 September 1959. Collected in The Lily Hand
The Squared Circle. Australian Women’s Weekly, 16 December 1959. Collected in The Lily Hand
Hostile Witness. Australian Women’s Weekly, 5 April 1961. Collected in The Trinity Cat
The Cradle. Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 December 1961. Collected in The Lily Hand
At the House of the Gentle Wind. Collected in The Trinity Cat
Breathless Beauty. Collected in The Trinity Cat
A Present for Ivo. Collected in The Trinity Cat
With Regrets. Collected in The Trinity Cat
Guide to Doom. Collected in The Trinity Cat
Maiden Garland. Collected in The Trinity Cat
The Trinity Cat. Collected in The Trinity Cat
Come to Dust. Collected in The Trinity Cat
Let Nothing You Dismay!. Collected in The Trinity Cat
The Frustration Dream. Collected in The Trinity Cat
The Man Who Held up the Roof. Collected in The Trinity Cat


As Ellis Peters


George Felse and Family


Fallen into the Pit (1951) (originally published under her own name)
Death and the Joyful Woman (1961) (Edgar Award for Best Novel, 1963)
Flight of a Witch (1964)
A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (1965) (US title: Who Lies Here?)
The Piper on the Mountain (1966)
Black is the Colour of my True Love’s Heart (1967). Expanded from the novella (qv)
The Grass-Widow’s Tale (1968). Expanded from the novella (qv)
The House of Green Turf (1969). Expanded from the novella (qv)
Mourning Raga (1969)
The Knocker on Death’s Door (1970). Expanded from the novella (qv)
Death to the Landlords! (1972)
City of Gold and Shadows (1973)
Rainbow’s End (1978)


Brother Cadfael


A Morbid Taste for Bones (published in August 1977, set in 1137)
One Corpse Too Many (July 1979, set in August 1138)
Monk’s Hood (August 1980, set in December 1138)
Saint Peter’s Fair (May 1981, set in July 1139)
The Leper of Saint Giles (August 1981, set in October 1139)
The Virgin in the Ice (April 1982, set in November 1139)
The Sanctuary Sparrow (January 1983 set in the Spring of 1140)
The Devil’s Novice (August 1983, set in September 1140)
Dead Man’s Ransom (April 1984, set in February 1141)
The Pilgrim of Hate (September 1984, set in May 1141)
An Excellent Mystery (June 1985, set in August 1141)
The Raven in the Foregate (February 1986, set in December 1141)
The Rose Rent (October 1986, set in June 1142)
The Hermit of Eyton Forest (June 1987, set in October 1142)
The Confession of Brother Haluin (March 1988, set in December 1142)
A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (September 1988, set in 1120)
The Heretic’s Apprentice (February 1989, set in June 1143)
The Potter’s Field (September 1989, set in August 1143)
The Summer of the Danes (April 1991, set in April 1144)
The Holy Thief (August 1992, set in February 1145)
Brother Cadfael’s Penance (May 1994, set in November 1145)




Death Mask (1959)
The Will and the Deed (1960) (US title: Where There’s a Will)
Funeral of Figaro (1962)
The Horn of Roland (1974)
Never Pick Up Hitchhikers! (1976)
Shropshire (non-fiction, with Roy Morgan) (1992)
Strongholds and Sanctuaries : The Borderland of England and Wales (non-fiction, with Roy Morgan) (1993)
The Trinity Cat and Other Mysteries (Crippen & Landru, 2006)


As John Redfern


The Victim Needs a Nurse (c.1940)


As Jolyon Carr




Murder in the Dispensary (1938)
Freedom for Two (1939)
Masters of the Parachute Mail (1940)
Death Comes by Post (1940)


Uncollected short stories


Come In – and Welcome Everywoman’s, January 1938


As Peter Benedict


Day Star (1937)

Last updated on March 20, 2019
  1. Love her writing, especially the under-rated A Bloody Field by Shropshire. She was so prolific. Impossible to read them all.

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