In the battle of Lincoln, 1141, the Sheriff of Shropshire is captured by the Welsh forces of the Empress Maud. The county proposes to exchange him for a young Welsh nobleman. But when the Sheriff is murdered only Brother Cadfael can save the captive from retaliation.
In this mystery featuring 12th-century Brother Cadfael, a Welsh lord captured by the English is to be exchanged for Gilbert Prestcote, sheriff of Shropshire, who is held by the Welsh. When Prestcote dies in Welsh hands, Cadfael suspects murder and reveals the motives of the captors. PW commented: "Peters's local color is at its most engaging in the tangled family trees that sprawl across a contentious border.''