Just prior to Christmas,1141, a new priest is appointed to the parish church of Holy Cross...also known as the Abbey of St.Peter and St.Paul. Father Adam, the easy going, genial and forgiving priest who had cared for his flock for many years, has died and the charge of filling his shoes falls to the brothers of the Abbey. The Abbot has selected a well educated, former secretary to the Papal legate as a worthy candidate, not realising that an able administrator does not necessarily make a compassionate and understanding priest. Father Ailnoth immediately alienates his parishioners with his harsh, unforgiving rule, severely ruffling the feathers of servants and free men alike, so when his body is found, floating in the river, Sheriff Hugh Beringar finds a wall of silence surrounding the apparent murder. Suspicion falls on Cadfael's new garden helper, Benet who came to the town as a nephew to Father Ailnoth's housekeeper. As usual, Cadfael and Hugh solve the not so difficult mystery and, as usual, the setting for the story is what makes it so appealing. Despite the changes in the surroundings and circumstances of today, the people of nine centuries past, are just the same as the people of today, with their jealousies, faults and squabbles.