I have read some of the Cadfael books, many years ago, when the television series was on (which I also loved) but although I enjoyed them, it's a long time since I picked up one of them to rea. This was the first book in the series, although, it would seem that many people suggest starting with the second instead.
The reason for this seems to be that this book, although featuring some of the characters from the later books, is in many ways a stand alone novel. Not set in Shrewsbury, for the most part at least, it instead follows Cadfael and some of the other Monks on a journey into Wales in an attempt to gain possession of the remains of Saint Winifred and claim them for themselves, or rather for their Abbey.
This is actually based on real events, the Monks really did go to the grave of this Welsh Saint and remove her bones, taking them to the Abbey at Shrewsbury and installing them in a shrine there. What the local Welsh population may have made of this at the time, I don't know, but I did enjoy Ellis Peters handling of the story. (I should perhaps here, make slight mention of the fact that Ellis Peters is in fact a nom de plume for Edith Pargeter, I wasn't actually aware of that prior to reading this book, and I'll be honest in saying that I hadn't come across her under her 'real' name prior to this, I'd just assumed that Ellis Peters was a man.)
We are introduced to the character of Brother Cadfael, a somewhat worldly Monk, who has taken orders later in life, having had much experience of man (and woman) and their faults before hand. He treads the line between the Church and secular Medieval life, It's this life experience that makes him ideal to be our detective and guide through the story, leading up to discover whodunnit and why.
There is something hugely likeable about Cadfael, perhaps his contentment with his life in the Abbey, without ever fully embracing every aspect or idea that goes with it? He is kind hearted, generous, understanding and wise.
The story itself is, although perhaps a little slower moving that some other murder mystery novels, very interesting and entertaining, and the final explanation and reveal satisfying. I suspect that I will be reading more of these novels in the series before much longer.