This book of short stories is a prequel to the Brother Cadfael Chronicles, the series of novels set in medieval England and Wales. They feature the extremely effective, almost preternaturally intuitive, and thoroughly interesting monk and detective, Brother Cadfael.
In this volume, there is an introduction explaining Brother Cadfael and the series, and why the author wrote these particular stories: to show the Brother's entry into the vocation he had chosen as a monk, after a full lifetime as a seafarer and soldier (which is also covered very briefly during the course of the story, "A Light on the Road to Woodstock"). In that story the Prior of one abbey is kidnapped on his way to a court hearing about a case with Cadfael's master, Sir Roger Maudit. In the second story, a beautiful pair of silver candlesticks are stolen, a young servant girl disappears, and a mysterious gift large enough to feed the poor through a terrible winter after a poor harvest, in "The Price of Light." In the last story, "Eye Witness," a keeper of accounts is dragged, nearly dead and drowned, from the river. He has been robbed, hit in the head, dumped in the river, and left to die. Who has done it? Is there an eyewitness, as there might have been? And if so, how can they be found?
This book will be interesting most especially to history buffs and those interested in medieval monastic ways, as well as by Ellis Peters' fans, and those who have already encountered Brother Cadfael in Ellis Peters' earlier novels. It is a refreshing, very unusual (and in many ways, suprising) book of mystery stories, by a writer with a rare understanding and appreciation of the Middle Ages.