A first novel set in Cawood Abbey, a Cistercian monastery, in 1379. Brother Anselm has been found strangled, soon after a dramatic revelation that his previous name was Jean D'Albret. . . and that his previous soldiering career in France left a clutch of mortal enemies in its wake. But the investigation is put in the hands of Brother Barnabas, a true innocent who can scarcely believe the scandals that come to light as his tedious, repetitive questioning progresses. And matters are complicated by the presence of some important, snowbound guests at the monastery: the Earl of Cleveland (with Countess) and the Earl of Wakefield (who, to Barnabas' horror, doesn't even speak Latin). So it takes quite a while for Barnabas to sift through all the evidence of thievery, blackmail, and sodomy--eventually surviving an attempt on his life, producing the culprit, and making some personal decisions about his own future. Allison offers reams of period detail here: the prodigious research, in fact, often seems to be this mystery's leading character. But the humans involved remain stubbornly dull and lifeless, and plodding Brother Barnabas offers absolutely no challenge to Ellis Peters' absorbing Brother Cadfael (cf., most recently, p. 147).