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The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peters

Book cover for The Sanctuary Sparrow
On the three steps to the parish altar lay sprawled some poor wretch flattened beneath a surge of trampling, battering foes, all hacking away with fist and boot, happily in such a tangle that comparatively few of their kicks and blows got home. All Cadfael could see of the quarry was a thin arm and a fist hardly bigger than a child's, that reached out of the chaos to grip the edge of the altar-cloth with life and death desperations" - From the Sanctuary Sparrow. Standing among the choir stalls for the night ritual of Matins, the Shrewsbury Brothers seemed indistinguishable from the wooden icons that surrounded them - fixed, enduring, and clothed in a severe dignity. Their prayers were happily and for once in keeping with the new peace that had recently fallen over the countryside since Easter, the year of Our Lord 1140. But as the Brothers petitioned, a soft tremor moved through the room, causing Brother Anselm to stumble in his chants, and the rest of them to feel the threat before they saw it. In seconds their repose was effectively shattered by the clamor of an approaching mob which hurled itself through the parish door and into the sanctuary -angry hounds in pursuit of their helpless quarry. Terrified and in tatters, the young prey clutched at the altar-cloth, grasping for mercy in the only sure place he might find it. In this seventh in a continuing series, Brother Cadfael assists county sheriff Hugh Beringar in proving the innocence of a penniless juggler accused of robbery and attempted murder.