Well written, well characterized personalities of the protagonists. The series gets better and better as one goes along. For a first book of a series it is much more readable than in usual.
The time of Brother Cadfael is the setting for this book, so we are dealing with King Stephen and the Empress Maude duking it out. This first book of the Magdalene la Batarde series is filled with political intrigue, but in order to explain its significance a lot of pages are given to those explanations. However, it cannot be said to be dull by any means. Each murder eliminates one of the suspects, and some of them we are hoping to be the villain because they are not the most likeable characters in the book. The whorehouse which Magdalene manages on the principle of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" is a very unique place and as unlike the Benedictine monastery in which Cadfael lives as is possible.
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