In this 13th installment of the Brother Cadfael series, the Benedictine Abbey of Saints Peter and Paul is disturbed by yet another murder — and this time the victim is one of their own. Judith Perle, a young widow, rents a valuable cottage to the abbey in exchange for a single white rose to be paid from its garden once a year. Brother Eluric is charged with delivering the rose, but a few days before payment is due, he is found dead in the cottage garden. Moreover, the rosebush has been disfigured, its branches hacked off. As the monks mourn Brother Eluric’s death, Cadfael wonders who could have done such a terrible deed. His investigation ultimately centers around Judith Perle, whose wealth and beauty have attracted several new suitors. Because of the cottage’s value, any man who married Judith would want it to be included in her dowry; and if the abbey failed to pay the rose rent, the cottage would return to Judith’s estate without restrictions. As Cadfael searches for Brother Eluric’s killer among the men in Judith’s life, a kidnapping and a second murder ultimately reveal the culprit.
It’s hard to believe that a series could still be good after 13 books, but this latest installment of the Cadfael series was just as enjoyable to me as the first book. There’s a definite formula to this series: there’s almost always a romantic subplot, and the real-life historical events of the era occasionally impinge on Cadfael and the other inhabitants of Shrewsbury. But if you enjoy this formula, which I do, you’ll love the series! I always recommend starting with book one, [A Morbid Taste for Bones], but I think you could read this book without missing any key information and without spoilers for the earlier books. As for this novel in particular, I really don’t have much else to say about it! Simply put, I liked it and will continue with the series. Only seven more books to go!