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A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel (Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon) Paperback – February 19, 2010
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Hugh is a "surgeon", which differs from being a "doctor" in medieval times. Doctoring at the time was based, in large part, of examining patients and prescribing treatment on the basis of the body's "humours". Bleeding and other primitive methods were used as "cures". Prayer probably worked about as well in those days as medical treatment. Surgeons were different because they actually worked to set bones and perform basic operations. Hugh also cultivated his own herbal remedies to aid in both the anesthetic part of surgery and in the healing process afterward. It's interesting to "listen in" as Hugh tries to understand the vagaries of the human body. He can't figure out, for example, why one side of the body is affected by a blow to the other side of the brain.
But the practice of medicine is only one part of the story. The others include the spate of lawlessness hitting the town of Bampton and Hugh's own search for a bride. Starr is very good about detailing life in the late medieval period. For another, non-fictional, look at England in the 14th century, buy Ian Mortimer's new book, "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England".Read more ›
Since I've read the first two installments in this series, I'll start with the obvious comparisons. Hugh is an engaging hero, likeable despite his self-confessed vanity regarding his talents. In the second book, the author manages to keep Hugh in character, while still having him develop as a person. The mystery itself is a bit pedestrian, but everything wraps up well in the end. As in the first novel in the series, Starr makes Wycliff a character, but he doesn't add much to the plot of the book other than to help Hugh with his deductions.
Where the author really excels, however, is in period detail, as well as the details of medieval surgery. There's less of it here in this book than in The Unquiet Bones, however, but that actually added to my enjoyment of the book. In all, this is a better book than the first in the series, though the mystery itself takes the backseat sometimes.
When Alan the Beadle is found under a hedge with his throat ripped out and his shoes missing, Hugh's examination of the body raises a suspicion that the death was not caused by a wolf. While Hugh searches for the shoe thief, and his baited stakeout fails to catch a marauding wolf, Hugh himself is attacked in the dead of night - by men. Then his chief suspect is found dead, apparently stabbed in the back of the neck.
There are no jarring anachronisms here; Hugh makes excellent use of the few and low-tech tools available to a medieval detective to solve the crimes. Who would think that the number of nails in a door hinge could provide an important clue to murder?
These books are a very pleasant way to nibble a little history within a well-written mystery. Hugh's mentor is a real historical character; a firebrand scholar who was later condemned by the Church as a heretic. The characters and setting are well-drawn, including the unsuitable women of differing stations who capture shy Hugh's fancy.
I look forward to the next book in this series!
Things I liked less about the book were the single-person perspective that is the heart of the book---we only hear the surgeon's voice and views on what is happening, limiting the dimension of the story. Even the dialogues are narrow and driven by Master Hugh's interpretation of what is being communicated. Also a problem,, in my opinion, is, paradoxically, the excessive amount of detail provided in almost diary-like fashion. For example, Master Hugh's daily food intake is listed pretty much for every meal that occurs during the week or ten days covered by the story.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoy Mel Star's ability to enter a medieval mind and create a believable setting. I would enjoy the plot more if his character didn't foreshadow every important clue and move. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kathleen L. Foster
Hugh de Singleton is a 14th Century English surgeon who is also the bailiff, or general manager, for the estate of an important nobleman in the southeastern part of England. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bjacobson
This is the second book in the Hugh de Singleton series. I did not read the first one but I did not feel lost in the least.
In this book there a few different mysteries. Read more
This was a fun historical mystery. I love the character of Master Hugh de Singleton. He is so much fun. He is the bailiff and surgeon of this area and very observant. Read morePublished 4 months ago by virginia winfield
History, in an appealing dose. Starr's hero, Master Hugh, is engaging. The mystery is gripping. Master Hugh lives in Bampton, on Lord Gilbert's estate a few miles west of Oxford... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Kinderhook Annie
This is the second in the chronicles of Hugh the surgeon/bailiff. They are very enjoyable - there is violence only because they are mysteries - it is not graphic or gratuitous at... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Starr has stumbled on a nice formula for this series of books. Interesting period (if you like history) likable characters, and lots of period details blended together with a... Read morePublished 8 months ago by ArizonaLarry