In the autumn of 1140 the Benedictine monastery at Shrewsbury finds its new novice Meriet Aspley a disturbing presence. Meek and biddable by day, his sleep is rent with nightmares so violent as to earn him the nickname of "Devil's Novice".
In her usual manner, Ellis Peters drip-feeds her hero and her readers alike with tantalising but measured trickles of information, permitting both to proceed but piecemeal (and at about the same pace as each other) towards the final revelation and the story's sudden resolution. Along the way, we are treated to the author's characteristically over-glamorised view of Mediaeval English life, with her entirely comforting (and rather touching) view of the honest goodness of the (Saxon) poor, as well as the essentially corrupt nature of those who would aspire to power (usually those overbearing Normans, of course).
In common with others of this series, this book presents a mix of romance and murder mystery, all set against a back-drop of political intrigue. In essence, then, we have here another classic from the Cadfael mould - an engaging read that taxes neither imagination nor credulity over much and which provides some fascinating glimpses of how things might have been in twelfth century Salop. It can be recommended to both established Cadfael fans and newcomers alike.