“Bodies and red herrings pile up in a satisfying way” in the Silver Dagger Award–winning medieval mystery series starring Brother Cadfael (Library Journal).
The year is 1142, and England is in the grip of civil war. Within the cloisters of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, there begins a chain of events no less momentous than the upheavals of the outside world.
It starts with the sad demise of Richard Ludel, Lord of Eyton, whose ten-year-old son and heir, also named Richard, is a pupil at the abbey. The boy refuses to surrender his newly inherited powers to Dionysia, his furious, formidable grandmother. A stranger to the region is the hermit Cuthred, who enjoys the protection of Lady Dionysia, and whose young companion, Hyacinth, befriends Richard. Despite his reputation for holiness, Cuthred’s arrival heralds a series of mishaps for the monks. When a corpse is found in Eyton forest, Brother Cadfael must devote his knowledge of human nature to tracking down a ruthless murderer.
Brother Cadfael, the 11th century Benedictine monk who functions admirably as healer, matchmaker and sleuth, marshals his considerable talents to solve two murders in this well-plotted but somewhat slick mystery. Ten-year-old Richard Ludel, a bright and independent student entrusted to the abbey's care by his father, has just inherited a large estate upon his father's death. His formidable grandmother, Dame Dionisia, insists that the unwilling boy be returned home and marry the heiress to the adjoining property. Two mysterious tenants on Dame Dionisia's land, a devout hermit, Cuthred, and his young aid, Hyacinth, are in league wtih the domineering dowager, who is unaware that Hyacinth is actually a runaway villein and that Cuthred's background is particularly heinous. When Richard disappears from the abbey, Dame Dionisia is immediately suspect. Other ominous events follow rapidly: an inquisitive nobleman is murdered in the forest; Hyacinth vanishes; and Cuthred is stabbed to death. Brother Cadfael must summon all his talents to solve the crimes, simultaneously playing matchmaker, doctor and high political games. Unfortunately, most of the characters are glibly superficial: lovers are fair and pure; villains cruel and swarthy. In his 14th appearance, however, Brother Cadfael remains as shrewd and unpredictable as ever.