The Raven in the Foregate

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Author: Ellis Peters

Series: Brother Cadfael

Age Range: Young Teens+

Period: 12th C

Genres:  DetectiveHistorical


Father Adam, easy-going parish priest of the Foregate parish, dies and is replaced by Father Ailnoth, a scholarly and zealous cleric who brings a housekeeper and a young servant, Benet, who is put to work helping Brother Cadfael in the garden. It soon turns out that Benet is a hunted emissary of the Empress Maud. Fr Ailnoth makes himself unpopular by some rash judgements and by being over-strict to the letter of the law. On Christmas Day he is found drowned and suspicion falls principally on “Benet” who, aided by a young lady sympathetic to his cause, goes into hiding. In the end Cynric the verger reveals how Fr Ailnoth met his death.


The issue of Fr Ailnoth's excesses is fairly well handled: the Abbot makes it clear, both to the reader and to the priest himself that while within his rights according to strict duty, a more charitable and understanding attitude would help. As ever the author's portrayal of the simple faith of the townspeople is edifying: they all come to mass at Christmas, one man goes out of his way to pay off a debt he owes before the Nativity, they try to find charitable excuses for Fr Ailnoth's behaviour, &c. There is a certain smattering of publicly-known sinning, and the issue of Cynric's refusal to help Fr Ailnoth out of the millstream where he met his death on the grounds that “he deserved it” is extremely suspect.

“Father Abbot, we are come to you thus because we are not altogether easy at the rule of our new priest. Father Ailnoth has his duties in the church and performs them faithfully, and there we have no complaint of him. But where he moves among us in the parish we are not happy within his dealings.”

Tuesday 1st January 2002