August, 1143. During the ploughing of Abbey land, the hastily buried remains of a woman's body are unearthed. Uneasiness pushes Brother Cadfael to find the whole truth behind this unexpected discovery.
Peter's 17th mystery featuring Brother Cadfael finds the 12th-century monk at his most sober and reflective, but his detecting talents are as dazzling as ever. When a newly tilled field recently given to the Benedictine abbey yields the hastily buried body of a young woman, Brother Cadfael takes a keen and immediate interest in the situation. Ruald, the former tenant of the land, entered the abbey as a novice a year earlier, abandoning his beautiful, young and extremely resentful wife, Generys. She has since mysteriously disappeared. Though it seems likely that the body is hers, Ruald is quickly cleared of suspicion via an unlikely source. Sulien Blount, a monk fleeing homeward from the devastating civil war near his own abbey, has solid proof that Generys was recently seen alive. When a second suspect, an itinerant peddlar, is arrested in connection with the murder, Sulien is again able to clear him. Brother Cadfael, deeply troubled, feels that Sulien knows much more than he is saying. An unusual air of melancholy pervades this novel as war, illness and human frailties take their tolls on the weary citizens of Shrewsbury. Created with Peters's consummate skill, Brother Cadfael's world is here seen through a darker glass.