Monday, January 21, 2013

The Tainted Coin by Mel Starr

This is the fifth in the Hugh de Singleton chronicles, adventures set in the fourteenth century. Hugh is a surgeon. He, is wife and child reside in Bampton, Hugh being the bailiff for Lord Gilbert.
In this novel, a badly beaten man is found under the porch of St. Andrews Chapel. The dying man is a traveling merchant. Upon his burial, an ancient coin falls from its hiding place in his mouth.
Since the murder happened on Lord Gilbert's land, Hugh pursues the assailants, identified by a horse with a broken shoe. The quest takes him to a nearby village and the release of a kidnapped girl. Before long, Hugh's life is in danger as he comes against wealthy and powerful men.

Starr's novels are so interesting because he has done so much research on the culture and customs of the fourteenth century. Following Hugh, I was amazed at his medical knowledge. I was fascinated by the herbs used and the surgeries performed.
For those liking lots of action, this novel may seem a bit slow. The impact of the novel is not the action but the historical context. If you would like to know what life was like in the fourteenth century among the Lords and their subjects, this would be a good book to read.
You do not have to read the preceding four novels to appreciate this one. Doing so, however, will help you understand how Hugh got to be where he is, especially in his personal life.
For those of us challenged in our knowledge of medieval English, Starr has provided a glossary at the beginning of the book.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

Mel Starr has spent many years teaching history, and has studied medieval surgery and medieval English. He lives in Michigan.

Monarch Books (distributed in the U. S. by Kregel Publications), 223 pages.

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

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