I had doubts starting this one, because it starts off slow. Really slow. Like, omg, this book is never, ever going to end. This was largely due to the history dump Peters gives the reader in the beginning; the boring-to-me kind of history about battles and wars and political shenanigans.
Then the dead body is found in the pile, and Cadfael gets his new assistant and stuff starts happening. Midway through I was loving this story; "cat and mouse" comes to mind, but it's really much more "cat vs cat" because Cadfael is up against a man as clever as he is and there's no mouse in this plot. The almost-the-end/climax-but-not was magnificent; the machinations were making me positively giddy, and yet the mystery itself continued. Once Cadfael figured out who the murderer was, I admit I felt a bit knuckle-headed because the possibility never even entered my mind. I can only tell myself I was entirely too caught up it the sub-plot of cat-n-cat and wasn't paying attention.
That's what I'm telling myself anyway.
These are excellent mysteries for anyone who wants something more serious than a cozy, but doesn't want hard-core thrillers or crime stories. Enjoying history is a plus, but not necessary save for the first few chapters. There are 20 books in this series and if each of them are this meaty, I'll be reading them for years to come, because they aren't the kind I can binge read. Yay!
This book works for the Kill Your Darlings game's COD: Stabbed with a sword. Primarily, it takes place during the middle ages, but it also is set in the midst of a civil war and the text is chock full of the word "sword".