The thirteenth Cadfael novel, The Rose Rent, is a little bit more than a detective story. Young widow Judith Perle, who rents property to the abbey for the token price of a single rose delivered on the same day once every year, goes missing a couple of days before this rent is due, following the mysterious near-destruction of the rose bush in question. As the sheriff and the abbey are well aware, failed payment of this rent, would legally result in the property defaulting back to Mistress Perle, and puts suspicion on some of her would-be suitors would might aspire to own it themselves.
Ellis Peters uses more of an open style of narration than usual in this novel, and we see events from a diverse range of points of view. With an ingenuity worthy of Agatha Christie, this is cleverly used to hide facts in plain sight and to bring about a genuinely surprising ending.
The main point of this novel, for me, wasn't simply solving the original murder of a young monk found dead after defending the unlucky rose bush. It was more an exploration of grief and love, seeing the young widow begin to stop mourning her first husband and starting to move on with her life, and we see a wide selection of suitors each with their own agenda, all eager to marry into the prosperous business Judith has inherited.
Overall this novel felt more sophisticated as a plot than many of the preceding ones, and had an emotional complexity that really made it come alive.
Next up: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk