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Title: The Potter’s Field
Series: Brother Cadfael #17
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
Cadfael’s Abbey trades a field with another Abbey and in the process of plowing it, turn up the remains of a woman.
A newly minted monk at Shrewsbury took the vows against his wife’s wishes and she disappeared, thought to have run off to Wales with a lover. Now the suspicion is on him. Until a novitiate turns up with a story about seeing the woman just a couple of weeks ago, with her ring to prove it. Then another woman is shown to have disappeared and her lover is arrested. The same novitiate proves that the woman is alive and sets the scoundrel free.
It all turns out that the woman was the monk’s wife but she died due to the novitiates father and mother. It wasn’t murder and there was no foul play. It was complicated enough that even Hugh Beringar says that God will sort out everyone’s motives.
I found this to be one of the more complicated mysteries, mainly because of the various motivations and lack of malice aforethought. And yet I certainly can’t agree with the author’s thoughts, presented through Cadfael, Hugh and the Father Abbot, that everything was ok in the end. There was no justice. The mother of the novitiate did cause the death of the wife of the monk, even if hatred wasn’t involved.
These last couple of Cadfael books I have found myself disagreeing with the author more and more about how justice gets carried out and just what is the law. If you cause someone else’s death, even if they agree to it, that is still killing someone. The price of a life is the life of the one who took it or, if there was no forethought and hatred, banishment for life. Someone who pre-meditates and then carries out a killing is not someone who deserves to live. That is a cancer that must be cut out, not a cold that gets treated with soft tissues and extra fluids.
Mercy misplaced or misapplied is as bad as no mercy at all.