Care to travel back to the Middle Ages?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

By Melissa J. Oleen

Rowan Public Library

Everyone has very specific genres they love. Lately, I have been enamored of historical mysteries, pre-1500 with a nun/monk as the sleuth.

Good writers in this genre treat the reader to interesting historical facts, insights into the lifestyles of early religieuse and puzzling mysteries in which the reader is given everything they need to know to solve the crime on their own.

In a period where the common person had few of the luxuries we enjoy today, why would anyone wish to commit to a lifestyle where, unless you were one of the top-ranking members, you would experience even fewer?

Obviously, religious beliefs are the prime reason, but social and political intrigues often played a part as well, and these reasons, combined with differing religious philosophies, can lead to some good mysteries. Add close living quarters, limited freedoms, lots of sin and you’ve got plenty of criminal motivations.

You may already be thinking of “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco. Set in an Italian abbey in 1327, Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate allegations of heresy and then murder. Besides an excellent whodunit, the reader receives an education in Middle Ages religion and the histories of various sects. A reviewer once wrote that reading a novel by Eco instantly raises your IQ by a couple of points. If “Name of the Rose” seems a little much for summer leisure reading, try the Sister Fidelma and Brother Cadfael mystery series.

Sister Fidelma is a young “brilliant and beguiling” heroine-sleuth with green eyes and red hair who lives in seventh century Ireland. British author and Celtic scholar Peter Tremayne inserts plenty of historical information about the Roman church and how it was overcoming the Celtic church. Readers get an idea what life was like in Celtic Ireland.

There were still mixed sex monasteries, monks and nuns were allowed to marry and women could become lawyers and judges. Sister Fidelma, a practical, no-nonsense woman and wise beyond her years, is also a qualified dalaigh, an advocate of the ancient laws of Ireland. She is often joined on her adventures by her friend and ideological opposite, Anglo Saxon Brother Eadulf. “Absolution by Murder” is the first title in this series that now includes more than 25 novels and short stories. “Penance of the Damned” will come out this July, so you have plenty of time to catch up.

Author Ellis Peters (pseudonym of Edith Pargeter) set her historically accurate mysteries in the first half of the 12th century. Her wily Brother Cadfael was a soldier who fought in the Crusades and then was a sea captain on the coasts of the Holy Land before taking orders at the Benedictine abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul near the Welsh boarder in Shrewsbury.

Brother Cadfael, a little less reserved than Sister Fidelma, is a “squat, barrel-chested, bandy-legged veteran of 57” with a healthy sense of mischief. “Morbid Taste for Bones” is the first title in this 20-title series.

Already familiar with the series covered here but would like to discover more clerical detectives? I recommend you visit for a very comprehensive list of clerical detectives.

Summer reading registration: Children 12 months old to rising fifth-graders are invited to participate in On Your Mark, Get Set, READ!! Summer Reading Program. Join us for these “sportastic” celebrations to kick off a summer of great reads and programs. Storytelling, activities, book raffles and light refreshments round out the programs. Programs begin June 13 and run through July 28. Kick-off is this week

Thursday, June 9, 3:30-5 p.m. — South Rowan Regional Library, 920 Kimball Road, China Grove;

Friday, June 10, 1:30-3 p.m. — East Branch, 110 Broad St, Rockwell;

Saturday, June 11, 10 a.m.-noon — RPL Headquarters, 201 W. Fisher St.

Summer movie series: Headquarters, starting at 6:30 p.m. Free popcorn and lemonade served. June 7, “Remember the Titans,” PG. Based on a true story, a popular white high school football coach is demoted and replaced by a black coach and the two must work together to unite a team divided by the school’s recent integration. June 14, “The 5th Wave,” (PG13). Cassie Sullivan, the survivor of an alien invasion, must rescue her young brother from the enemy with help from a boy who may be one of them.

Book Bites Book Club: South (China Grove), Tuesday, June 28, 6-7 p.m. Free, open to the public. We discuss a different book each month and serve refreshments loosely related to the theme. “Rebecca,by Daphne du Maurier. Need a copy? Call 704-216-7731.

Breakfast of Champions (for teens): Open to rising sixth- through 12th-graders. Are you getting enough iron in your breakfast? Find out with a fun experiment. All events at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 14, headquarters; Wednesday, June 15, East branch; Thursday, June 16, South Rowan Regional.

Foosball fields (for teens): Open to rising sixth- through 12th-graders. Create your own Foosball table. Please bring any size shoebox. All at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 21, headquarters; Wednesday, June 22, East; Thursday, June 23, South Regional.

Water Olympics (for teens): Open to rising sixth- through 12th-graders. Prepare to get soaked. All at 3:30 p.m., June 28, headquarters; June 29, East; June 30, South Regional.

Genealogy Class: Saturday, June 18, 10 a.m.-noon, headquarters. The class, will focus on census, military and court records; it is a repeat of the May 14 class.

Parent Workshop: Monday, June 20, 6-7 p.m., headquarters. Learn to read to your child. Child care provided.

Adult Summer Reading Program: Zentangle and other stress relief, Monday, June 27, 6:30 p.m., headquarters. Explore the new craze of adult coloring and its therapeutic benefits, along with other stress relieving activities.

Displays: Headquarters, RHA Behavioral Health, Carter House and photos from Spring photowalk; South, stained glass by Sandra Collins and Betty Corriher; East, vintage lunchboxes.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.