"Pleasant" is a good way to describe the Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters. These romanticised renderings of life in twelfth century England, however unreal, make the era seem pleasant enough that you almost want to live there. The countryside is lovely, there is usually a hint of romance in the air, and life moves at a measured, unrushed pace. No pavement, no pollution, no hustle and bustle. Seldom mentioned are the poverty, hunger, disease, and general stench (people rarely bathed). Life, especially in the cloister, is a bucolic idyll.
In "A Raven In The Foregate", Abbot Radulfus returns from a church council with a new priest for the Foregate. Father Adam having recently died, Radulfus brings back Father Ailnoth at the recommendation of Bishop Henry. Ailnoth, however, turns out to be a harsh and stiff-necked young priest and manages to alienate his flock before turning up dead on Christmas morning. There are plenty of suspects, not the least of whom is young Benet, nephew of Ailnoth's housekeeper.
With plenty of potential suspects, this would seem to be an intricate and challenging mystery, but ultimately the plot is not as involved as one might wish. The outcome is a happy one, if a bit too neat and satisfactory for everyone involved, but not too hard to see coming.
Like most of the books in this series, "A Raven In The Foregate" is only an average mystery. What makes this and the other Cadfael tales enjoyable is the pleasant world Peters creates and the idyllic, unhurried way in which she tells the tale. These are nice books to read and, on the strength of that I recommend them, especially to those who like a bit of history and romance along with their whodunits.