This is a thought-provoking but comfortable story, which begins with a new priest taking the living of the local parish. Father Ailnoth is brilliant, educated, devout, austere - he has everything, in fact, except for the smallest hint of mercy or humility. In spite of his graces, his strict adherence to the letter of the law and his preference for correctness over human kindness soon makes him hated in the parish. When he is found dead in the mill-pond on Christmas Day, there are only too many suspects.
Suspicion rests on the young man helping in Cadfael's gardens, who arrived with the priest as nephew to his housekeeper. As pressure builds for a murderer to be uncovered, Cadfael tries to shelter his young assistant and discover the true culprit.
As usual, the tiny details are spot on historically and add very much to the atmosphere and depth of this novel. Cadfael's benevolent, forgiving attitude and his willingness to aid young people in love give a feeling of warmth and hope not often found in murder mysteries.
Another beautifully written and intriguing novel by Ellis Peters.
Next up: Graceling by Kristin Cashore