Monday, October 13, 2014

New Release- The Abbot's Agreement- Mel Starr

★★
Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon # 7 
Lion Fiction/Kregel 258 Pages, August/November 2014

"My life would have been more tranquil in the days after Martinmas had I not seen the crows. Whatever it was that the crows had found lay in the dappled shadow of the bare limbs of the oak, so I was nearly upon the thing before I recognized what the crows were feasting upon. The corpse wore black..."

 Master Hugh is making his way towards Oxford when he discovers the young Benedictine - a fresh body, barefoot - not half a mile from the nearby abbey. The abbey's novice master confirms the boy's identity: John, one of three novices. But he had gone missing four days previously, and his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death: the lad has been stabbed in the back. To Hugh's sinking heart, the abbot has a commission for him ...
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It’s been eighteen months or so since I read my last Hugh de Singleton novel, and I have to admit, despite some of the (entirely legitimate) comments made by other reviewers, this was one of my personal favourites.
Provided expectations are not placed too high, its generally quite good- of course there is no high drama, political intrigue, and little in the way of real action or tension, but this is not something the series generally contains.
Those expecting such things (or a series to the level of another Cadfael) may be disappointed. The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton are a more slow-paced with the occasional foray into Medieval Medicine and surgery which I for one appreciate as someone personally fascinated with the subject.

I personally enjoyed the descriptions of life in and the working of a medieval Benedictine monastery, some of the other descriptions of social life, the impact of the Black Death and the exploration of some of the religious beliefs and ideas of the period. The story did perhaps drag a little in places, and Hugh is certainly not the sharpest tool in the barn, but generally the story was compelling enough that I wanted to read on. There is something endearing about Dear Hugh, despite his occasional failings a sleuth, and even Arthur, his burly bodyguard.

My only major gripe in terms of the plot-line was a serious contradiction given about the evidence of the night the murder was committed. Without meaning to give too much away it was early on stated that there was no moon on that night- and later that there was a full moon and a cloudless sky allowing persons to see clearly. This is not presented as an error, or seemingly even remembered, and for mystery buffs, might be considered a heinous fax pas- and perhaps the solution was a little obvious. Yet for all that, those seeking a ‘light’ mystery with sound historical content, or a clean read with a Christian flavour may be satisfied.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

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