Shrewsbury, 1139. The bloody civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud has swept through the country towards the rural security of Brother Cadfael’s monastery. The citizens of Worcester have fled, among them two orphaned children of noble stock, together with their tutor, a young nun. A Benedictine monk in whose care Lady Ermina and her brother Ives were left, comes to the Abbey to ask if the children have been seen. Although it would be hard to miss Ermina, a young girl of striking beauty, no one has seen the missing pair or their companion. Cadfael sets off to lead the search for the missing trio, through the rugged wastes of snowbound Shropshire, following an elusive trail across a lawless land - until the discovery of the body of a young woman, frozen beneath the ice, adds a chilling new dimension to their journey. Starring Philip Madoc, Sir Michael Hordern and Douglas Hodge and dramatised by Bert Coules.
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I had read the book years ago, but had forgotten a lot of the details. I really enjoyed revisiting the story in the form of a radio play!
What I liked best was Ellis Peter's (the author's) ability to recreate the thinking of the time, and the cultural differences between people then and now - while also showing that human nature has not really changed at all, over the centuries. This story also clearly shows the real dangers of winter, in the days before house insulation and central heating, and brings to life the difficulties ordinary people experienced during that period of history.
As a detective story, the clues are there for the listener, but not too obvious, so that the final outcome is not easy to guess. It keeps you interested right to the end.
Of course I like Cadfael, and Philip Madoc's performance as the veteran soldier turned monk was very good. But I have always really liked the character of Hugh Beringar, the Deputy Sherriff, and the actor in this play gave a good interpretation of this character, too.
Ellis Peters has created very believable characters, and the time and place in which the Cadfael series is set comes alive as you listen (or read). She has a compassionate touch, and great understanding of human nature.