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A finely honed tale of mediaeval intrigue
on 25 November 2001
Barely four weeks past Easter of the Year of Our Lord 1140, with Shrewsbury and all its region secure within the King's peace, the conventual peace of Matins within the great Abbey church of St Peter and St Paul is suddenly and most rudely shattered. Hunted and hounded by an angry mob into the comparative safety of sanctuary within the House of God, a terrified young man, accused of robbery and murder, and closely followed by his accusers and would-be executioners, disturbs the midnight office of the good monks of Shrewsbury. And so starts the seventh Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, in which the mediaeval sleuth finds himself with yet another wrong to right, by once more putting his mind to the solving of one of Shrewsbury's small mysteries.
In this particular case, the mystery is no greatly complex affair but it is, in any case, largely subsidiary to Ellis Peters' painting of a finely detailed picture of life in twelfth century England, and more especially here, within a moderately wealthy family household. There are some unexpected twists and developments along the way, though, and there is certainly nothing predictable about the way the story works itself out, although the ending is no particular surprise either.
In some respects, this is one of the best of the Cadfael books. Its opening pages contain some of Ellis Peters' finest writing, with her descriptions of the running to ground of young Liliwin and the reactions of Abbot Radulfus being quite hair-raising in their potency. The tale unfolds at a sure and steady pace thereafter, too, ensuring that it is always difficult to put the book down, right up until the final exciting, and rather tear-jerking, denouement.