Brother Haluin of the Shrewsbury Community falls from the Abbey roof and believing himself close to death confesses to the Abbot (with Brother Cadfael in attendance) that he had assisted in the abortion of his illegitimate child before entering the monastery. He recovers and sets out with Brother Cadfael on a penitential journey to visit the tomb of the child’s mother. On the way back they take shelter in a house where a young woman is about to be married.

This whole story, despite its sordid background, is very edifying, as is often the case with the author’s works in this series. One problem: the Abbot and Brother Cadfael discuss – in private – the fact revealed by the other brother in his deathbed confession. I presume that this is a matter of ignorance on the part of the author; it is clear that neither will speak of the matter to any third party, and they only do so to each other with good intentions. However, it is wrong and would need to be explained. The rest of the story is full of edifying incidents as when, for example, the two brothers take shelter in a manor and the lord asks if either of them is able to marry his young sister to a nobleman. It turns out that this is to be done to avoid the unwanted attraction between the girl and a young man who is her blood relation. Everything is above board and the whole matter is clearly a charitable and moral way out of difficult circumstances.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of goodtoread.org.