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A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel (Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon) Paperback – February 19, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This skilfully woven story is a delight to read. The setting is exceptionally well crafted. Highly recommended." (Davis Bunn, best-selling author 2014-06-23) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

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Product Details

  • Series: Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Monarch Books (February 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854249541
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854249548
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel" is Mel Starr's second novel in his Hugh de Singleton series. Singleton, a surgeon lives in the village of Bampton, about a day's ride away from Oxford. He has moved to Bampton to practice surgery and in Starr's first book he solves a crime for lord of the manor and is appointed the manor's bailiff, in addition to his medical duties. Both of Hugh's official duties are called into service when bodies are discovered in and around Bampton.

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".
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Format: Paperback
A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel is the second tale (or chronicle) of Hugh de Singleton, a surgeon and bailiff who also solves mysteries in the town of Bampton. This time, a beadle has been found dead near St. Andrew's Chapel, his throat brutally slashed. Everyone assumes that a wolf has killed him; but on the other hand, maybe it was murder?

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.
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Surgeon Hugh de Singleton, a gentle, principled, and keenly observant man, has just assumed his new responsibilities as Bailiff in this charming 14th century police procedural, set shortly after the black plague had ravaged Britain.

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!
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While there is a lot to like about this book, ultimately I found it somewhat overwritten and slow moving for a crime thriller (albeit a thriller set in the 14th Century.) The author, Mel Starr, knows his history and has laced this novel with an enormous amount of interesting detail about everyday life and culture in medieval England. This backdrop really carries the story which is otherwise a not especially intricate or surprising mystery. Starr's protagonist, Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff at Bampton Manor, is an engaging character, well-drawn, sympathetic and convincingly, a man of his time. Master Hugh has become a kind of sleuth through his duties as doctor and manor manager and because he has a naturally curious bent and well-developed sense of justice. In "The Corpse...", he is early on confronted with the death of a colleague who appears to have been killed by a wild animal. But there aren't many animal predators afield in that part of England and the victim has also suffered a serious head wound. The rest of the novel takes the protagonist through a long search for motive and, eventually, the killer. A secondary plot has Master Hugh on another search mission--the hunt for a suitable wife.

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.
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