Eye Witness is the third and final short story in the collection, A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters.
Quick Review (read on for full review)
An enjoyable, quick read that sees Cadfael tackle a mystery with his usual style of logic, observation and a keen understanding people. A perfectly cosy, comfort read. 4.5 / 5
The yearly rents are due for collection from all the properties owned by Shrewsbury Abbey. The monk whose job it is to oversee and collect these monies, Brother Ambrose, is sick in the infirmary, and so the task must fall to another, William Rede. The job is a difficult one, but he also has problems closer to home. His son, Eddi, is a “brawler and a gamester”. When he racks up debts, he expects his father to pay them, but not this time. William Rede has decided enough is enough.
The following day, Madog of the Dead-Boat pulls a man out of the River Severn, still alive but in a bad way. The man is William Rede and the Abbey rents have been stolen.
Cadfael will have to use all at his disposal to not only help William Rede recover, but also to find out if the victim’s son is really as guilty as he looks…
“Now William,” he said tolerantly, “if you can’t comfort, don’t vex.”
Although this is only a short story, it is packed with as much story as one of the full length Cadfael novels. This means that although you may have your suspicions as to who is the culprit, you are not quite sure until you reach the end.
It is a well-thought out mystery that Cadfael tackles with his usual style of logic, observation and a keen understanding of people. He is not going to make the same mistake as others in jumping to the wrong – and the easiest – conclusion.
As the final story in this collection it is perfect, showing each side to Cadfael’s personality – the healer, the mystery solver, the sympathetic, compassionate man who understands both the problems of real life and a life hidden away from the world. By the end of Eye Witness, and thus A Rare Benedictine, we see that Cadfael is not only settled in his new life, but enjoying it. We also see the sleuth he is to become.
This collection makes the perfect prequel to the novels. If you’ve read the longer stories but not these, I recommend you do.