The first Cadfael novel, from its start a delight. 1137. At Shrewsbury's Benedictine Abbey the magnificent herb garden bears testimony to the skills of its creator, a fifty seven year old monk with a most worldly past. For decades Cadfael fought and loved. Now he has settled for monastic life. His talents are wide, he not only adept at treating illness, but an acute observer of all around him. Great is his understanding of human frailty. Outwardly mild, he should never be underestimated.
Being of Welsh blood, he is the ideal choice to accompany Prior Robert and delegation to Wales, the mission delicate: transfer of Saint Winifred from her grave in remote Gwytherin. The Abbey thereby hopes to attract hordes of pilgrims and greatly boost its income. How will the people of Gwytherin react? Suspicion becomes hostility when their main spokesman is murdered....
Here is a book not to be hurried - all the better to savour its abundance of fascinating detail, subtleties and underlying humour. (The latter bubbles to the surface when a seemingly insurmountable problem is finally resolved.)
The times are evocatively depicted, as are the communities at both the Abbey and the Welsh village. For scene setting and creation of fullblooded characters, this is writing of a very high order. Interwoven are two love stories that greatly appeal and a murder mystery that genuinely intrigues.
An immensely enjoyable, leisurely, uplifting read - its detective far removed from those usually met in books. And so many novels to follow! What more could a reader want?