This fifth book in the medieval mystery series involving Brother Cadfael is my favorite thus far.
It is 1139, and Brother Cadfael is in charge of the herbarium at the abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul of Shrewsbury. His usual assistant, Brother Mark, is serving for a year with the lepers at the nearby asylum of Saint Giles.
Unlike the common citizens, who shun the lepers, the monks are happy to serve them. As Cadfael reflects about himself, “he knows of leprosies of the heart and ulcers of the soul worse than any of these he poulticed and lanced with his herbal medicines.”
The lepers, like the rest of Shrewsbury, are caught up in the excitement of the wedding of a famous baron and his beautiful, much younger, bride-to-be. But a vicious murder halts the proceedings, and Cadfael, the unofficial coroner and detective of the abbey, must solve the crime. The focus turns to the asylum, since the place everyone wants to avoid is a perfect place to hide.
Evaluation: I love learning about medieval healing arts and customs via this “whodunnit” series. Moreover, without modern technology, the characters have nothing but their minds to help solve crimes, and sharing in their ratiocinations is most entertaining.
Published by William Morrow & Company, 1982