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Christmas, 1141 AD. Abbot Radulfus returns from London, bringing with him a priest for the vacant living of Holy Cross (known as the Foregate), a man of presence, scholarship and discipline, but neither humility nor the common touch. When he is found drowned in the mill-pond, suspicion is cast in many directions, not least towards a young man who came in the priest's train, sent to work in Brother Cadfael's garden. For he has little obvious priestly calling. Indeed, he soon attracts the friendship of a girl both beautiful and formidable.To Brother Cadfael, once worldly, now dedicated, if gently cynical, is left the familiar task of sorting the complicated strands which define guilt and innocence.