It goes without saying that stealing is one of the sins in life--and with her usual characteristic zeal, author Ellis Peters adds murder to that list!
In "The Holy Thief," the 19th chronicle of Brother Cadfael, Peters continues her top-flight form of the medieval whodunnit and, as usual, her protagonist, the good Benedictine monk, rides to the rescue and solution.
The year is 1144--and still King Stephen and Empress Maud are struggling in an interminable civil war, with no solution in sight. However, that historical fact is mere backdrop--as it usually is--to a more local concern. A renowned earl (Essex) is killed by an arrow, but not before he tries to make amends with Heaven by restoring some of the properties he had earlier "gained." This includes the abbey of Ramsey, a run-down site badly in need of more worldly help. The abbey sends envoys out, and one such envoy arrives in Shrewsbury, at the abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Cadfael's domain. The envoy includes Brother Herluin and his young novice Tutilo, who possesses a great singing voice along with other musical skills. In Shrewsbury is also, as the plot would have it, a beautiful slave girl (also a singer) named Daalny.
Suffice it to say, Peters lays a solid romantic setting. But the rains come, so much so that much of the abbey's possessions, including the holy relics, must be moved to safety. But not so safely after all, as a theft is discovered. And this soon leads to--you have it--a murder.
And Cadfael takes over. Using not only his brilliance, but his skills as the abbey's herbalist, Cadfael wastes no time in carefully solving the crime. Of course, as in all the Cadfael adventures, the murder is solved. The solution rarely comes easily for this ex-crusader, nor should it.