Monk's Hood

Monk's Hood - Ellis Peters [These notes were made in 1985:]. "A Medieval Whodunnit". Cadfael is a Welsh monk near the England/Wales border. He is also a shrewd observer, and he (as well as the people he observes) is humane if not fully human. In fact, Cadfael pretty much makes it to "human"; the suspects in the murder tend to be defined by their roles a bit. Bastard son; discontented slave; hot-tempered young rightful heir - all of them at some point are suspected of putting the poisonous balm made from Monk's-hood into the rich old man's food. The border is important, for under English law, the murderer (Meurig - the bastard son) has no reason to kill his father, but under Welsh law, he is an inheritor & therefore has reasons to feel aggrieved. Peters weaves in just enough medieval law and church politics to make all this comprehensible; it's a bit daft to compare this to Name of the Rose, which is a much more complex work, and a one-shot effort. But the two share at least some genuine evidence of their authors' erudition. I was not tremendously bowled over (Cadfael is rather more matter-of-fact than your standard detective-hero) but I was pleased by this book. I was particularly pleased by the ending in which, Father-Brown style but with more plausibility, Cadfael chooses to let the murderer go free of the outer, no' not the inner consequences of his crime