The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peters

Year of publication: 1983
Series and no.: Brother Cadfael, # 7
Genre: Historical mystery
Type of mystery: Robbery and murder
Type of investigator: Monk
Setting & time: Shrewsbury, England, 12th century

A young travelling jongleur and entertainer is hunted down by an angry lynch mob bent on administering justice after a goldsmith is attacked and - they think - murdered on the night of his son's wedding. He manages to reach the sanctuary of the abbey church and when questioned, adamantly denies having had anything to do with the robbery. The goldsmith has survived the attack, but a robbery of that magnitude is punishable by death, so the young man is no better off. Cadfael's impression is that he is innocent, and that indefatigable sleuth sets off to investigate the crime. As always, love rears it's shining head, and the mystery seems impenetrably tangled.

This is the best of the Cadfael books I have read so far. It not only has Peters' characteristic comfortable narrative style, excellent characterisations and good writing, but also a tight, flawless puzzle plot and a masterful treatment of universal themes that come together to create a near-perfect mystery. The whole book is not only a story of a crime investigation, but a treatment of how greed and parsimony can saturate not only the ones suffering from it, but also infect and/or destroy those around them. Is also about different types of love: love of material wealth stronger than that of one's family, love of self, sacrificing love, obsessive love, redeeming love. 5 stars.


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