The priest of the lay parish attached to the Abbey has died, and when the Abbot returns from a meeting of the English church fathers, he brings a replacement with him. Father Ailnoth brings with him a housekeeper and her nephew, a young lad who’s quickly volunteered for help for Brother Cadfael.
The old priest, Father Adam, had been beloved by his parishioners, having his finger right on the pulse of exactly how hard to push his parishioners when they had sinned, but not going overboard with punishment. Father Ailnoth is not that kind, and quickly alienates the entire parish. On Christmas night, before services, Cadfael sees him leave the church to head into town, and he’s never seen alive again. There are too many suspects- including his housekeeper’s nephew, who clearly has a much more interesting background than originally presented.
There is an interesting twist to perpetrator of this crime – I will fully admit I did’t see it coming. Other than that, this didn’t feel like a particular original story compared the others that came before. There definitely seemed to be a combination of elements of other stories that came together to make this one. It’s not bad because of this, just not one of my favorites. (I probably partially feel this way because the last book has a very interesting central plot, and this one just can’t compare.)