Another civilized foray into the 12th-century Benedictine monastery at Shrewbury, where Brother Cadfael (The Virgin in the Ice, etc.) continues to practice his skills with herbs, nostrums, and people in trouble. The primary poor soul this time: Meriet, younger son of a local landowner, who wishes passionately to join the order, to leave behind his stern father and his manly brother Nigel. Why is Meriet, a non-monk type, so insistent about his vocation? Could it have to do with the disappearance of Peter Clemence, envoy of Bishop Henry of Blois, while on a peace mission to Earl Ranulf of Chester? After all, just before he vanished, Clemence stayed overnight at the manor of Meriet's father. Well, the mystery thickens when Clemence turns up dead--while England's political mess (rival royals, private fiefdoms) adds a twist or two. And the puzzles aren't solved till brother Nigel's wedding day. . . with Meriet's sharp-eyed young friend (and would-be lover) Isouda as Brother C.'s chief assistant-sleuth. For those who've acquired the somewhat special taste: Peters' customary mix of warmth, scholarship, and first-class storytelling.