The Brother Cadfael books are slim volumes – but this one uses that shorter format to perfection – it takes place in five days – the day before, the three days of, and the day after – St. Peter’s Fair.
The fair is the biggest festival of the monastery, and King Stephen himself had granted them all the proceeds from it. But the townsfolk of Shrewsbury have been rebuilding since a near rebellion was quashed (see: One Corpse Too Many), and have asked for part of the proceeds of the fair to help rebuild, since the town plays host. The Abbot doesn’t feel it’s his place to counter the wishes of the king, so refuses the request.
So, bring on some tension amongst the town folk, and an outside merchant who may be a supporter of the Empress Maud, and ends up dead, and you have a mystery on your hands. Brother Cadfael must help the merchant’s niece, who seems to know more than see’s saying, stay safe from whoever killed her uncle.
This is a tightly plotted story – I really appreciated the framing of the fair. Cadfael’s place in the intrigue is effortless, and the story really moves along. Another great book in this series.