Rauld has been a potter for all his adult life and married to his beautiful Welsh wife Generys for 15 years. They lived on a piece of land known as the Potter’s Field where Rauld has been able to extract the clay for his work. When Rauld is called to God’s service as a monk, his abandoned wife is devastated at losing him and soon after leaves the Shrewsbury area. Not long afterwards, the owner of the Potter’s Field (Eudo Blount of Longner) donates the land to the Abbey of Haughmond, and shortly after that is killed while fighting for King Stephen.
The field eventually comes into the possession of the Abbey of St Peter and St Paul at Shrewsbury who decides to put is to better use. While ploughing the land, the monks uncover a buried body that has been there for at least a year. The body has decomposed beyond recognition and can only be identified as a woman with long dark hair.
Meanwhile, the Benedictine Abbey at Ramsey (east of Shrewsbury) has been taken over by outlaws led by a former ally of King Stephen’s – Geoffrey de Mandeville. Most of the monks escape, and Sulien Blount (son of Eudo), still a novice, makes his way to Shrewsbury with the news. He also carries the news that Generys is alive and well.
When Sheriff Hugh Beringar finds out about a second missing woman, Sulien goes out of his way to also find her alive and well.
Hugh Beringar and Brother Cadfael eventually solve the mystery of the unidentified body and the circumstances of her death and burial. The Riddles surrounding the donation of the Potter’s Field and Sulien’s half-hearted attempt to become a monk are also solved.
How quickly the mystery would have been solved with a bit of modern forensics! Instead, we had to rely on Cadfael’s detective skills and in this case, human honesty. This was yet another excellent Cadfael mystery, and as usual there was a lot packed into a short book.
Book Published 1989