This novel is one of two by Ellis Peters about the medieval detective Cadfael that I've now read. But I'm hooked! In this first volume of the extensive Brother Cadfael series, the medieval crime sleuth is part of a quest of monks pursuing the bones of saint Winifred from Welsh soil, a quest commissioned by the blessed lady herself in an apparent vision to Brother Columbanus. But the town which houses Winifred's body doesn't want to give up her blessed bones so easily, and the peaceful mission is soon disturbed by the murder of the leader of the town. Suspects abound, including two suitors to his beautiful daughter, both of whom could benefit from his murder. Is the arrow in his body really from the daughter's true love, or has the other suitor tried to frame him? And are all the monks themselves beyond suspicion? Only Cadfael with his humble yet brilliant mind can unravel the truth, and come with a remarkable solution that ties up all the loose ends. The twists of the story-line are so ingenious they rival and perhaps surpass the efforts of most best-selling thrillers today.
Peters' command of the English language is outstanding, as is her precise portrait of medieval times. Although the religious aspect forms the fabric on which the novel is painted, the real concern is with characterization and intrigue. The tale is cloaked in constant talk of the supernatural, but Peters actually offers a novel that is more psychological than religious, and it is by applying the principles of reason rather than religion that Cadfael discovers the truth. The intriguing element of mystery that makes detective Cadfael's presence essential to the plot clinches this novel as a romping success. If you enjoy mystery, as well as a writer's ability to make excellent use of the English language with colourful descriptions, you are sure to enjoy this book. And chances are, like me you won't be able to stop after reading volume 1!