I've had this book for close to... eight years or so? Probably a little less than that. I bought this at the local library for $1. This book is the 17th (wow) in its series, and prior to this title, I've never heard of Brother Cadfael nor have I heard of the author Ellis Peters.
That being said, this book is pretty great.
The book takes place in 1143, so the syntax that the people use is a bit more ornate but without pretense. It's comforting to hear such terms and dialogue without it feeling overbearing or stuffy. We're first met with the appraisal of abandoned land to be sold or handed off. The land once belonged to Brother Ruald, a pious man of the cloister who no longer has any need for his cottage. He used to be a potter, but he was possessed by the deepest, most unavoidable desire to join the church and serve in Holiness. Reading about it, it was strange and fascinating to hear of someone being so wholesomely overwhelmed with the desire to serve in celibate piousness. It's not preachy, which is good because Brother Ruald's story is told many times.
The story unfolds rather steadily in the beginning. The property gets auctioned off and is slowly gleaned over for appraisal. And there comes gossip of its history. Here we learn of Brother Ruald's holiest possession, and the wife he left behind. Oooh, so the drama begins. And then, while The Potter's Field is being ploughed, a body is unearthed.
Ooooh, the drama thickens!
And from there, it's about watching these people of religious vocation try to figure out how this woman was killed and who she even was! When they find the body, it's merely bones. Outside of a crudely made cross, the only other evidence of her is her black hair and her plain dress. Several other people from outside the cloister get thrown into the mix. There are lies and questions—leads and dead ends. It's not action packed, but it has its own sense of entertainment.
Reading about people in an age far beyond our digital one trying to figure out a murder and deal out justice in their own humble yet urgent way is refreshing, I think. The book doesn't take a great deal of mental power to keep up with. It's just a story and a tale that slowly unfolds with each page. It's a peaceful read, and that's how I've been pleasantly spending my week whenever I found the time.
Ellis Peters is a lovely author, my compliments by way of this book, and she weaves through its entirety beautifully.