Monday, January 23, 2012

Unhallowed Ground by Mel Starr

This is the fourth in the Hugh de Singleton chronicles. Master Hugh is bailiff to Lord Gilbert as well as a surgeon in 14th century England.
Hugh is now married to Kate, the woman he courted in A Trail of Ink. A much disliked fellow of Bampton village, Thomas atte Bridge, is found hanged at Cow-Leys Corner. The Corner is where suicides were buried, being forbidden burial in consecrated church ground.
The coroner declares it a suicide but Hugh is not so sure. He spots evidence that seems to indicate Thomas was dragged to the spot. High also spies a reddened patch on one of Thomas' wrists.
No one is sorry that Thomas is dead as he was a mean and argumentative man. As Hugh goes about his daily tasks, he finds an increasing number of people with reason to see Thomas dead. It is with dread he realizes that the murderer may be one of his friends. One by one he eliminates the suspects.
Hugh is just about ready to give up on the case when there is an attack on his home. When there is a second attack, Hugh is himself stabbed in the arm. Kate plays the role of surgeon, sewing up the gash.
With renewed efforts, Hugh continues his pursuit until he can identify the murderer.

I like this style of historical mystery. I like Starr's writing. It is of the period as contractions are not used. Hugh is a methodical man, plodding along to the final revelation of the murderer.  I like the addition of Kate.  I hope I see more of her observations and insights in novels to come.
Reading the book is informative as well. You learn lots about the daily life in that era. I was astounded to read as Hugh performed cataract surgery on an elderly priest. While not like the surgery of today, moving the cataract away from the pupil was accomplished and better sight was restored. I had no idea something like that would have been done in that era.
And thank you for putting the Glossary right in the front, where it belongs. It made reading about a different place in a different time quite a joy.
Although this is the fourth in the series, the novel is contained enough that one could enjoy it without having read the earlier three.

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with an MA in history from Western Michigan University, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years. He retired in 2003 as the chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Monarch Books, distributed by Kregel Publications, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.

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