by Ellis Peters
In this installment of my beloved Cadfael mysteries, England’s civil war impacts Shrewsbury on a personal level when, in battle, the county’s sheriff is taken prisoner by the Empress’s men. Luckily for Shropshire, the King’s forces have a prisoner to exchange. But when the sheriff dies before the ransom is complete, suspicion falls on the young prisoner, leaving Cadfael to untangle the truth of it.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again–a huge part of the charm of these books is their brilliant historical context. While Peters doesn’t prose on and on about the political situation, it is an ever-present and very real part of the lives of the characters in these books. The ebb and flow of the fortunes of the various contenders for the throne shifts military might, battles, scavengers, highwaymen, and the common folk of England all over the war-torn countryside, in a time where the smallest decision of a king or empress could have an almost immediate impact on the daily lives of many innocents.
These are wonderful books. This title, in particular–excellent mystery, believable characters, and a well-paced story make it great fun. 5/5.