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A Plague on Both Your Houses (Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles) Paperback – June 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751516953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751516951
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A good, serious and satisfying read IRISH TIMES

About the Author

Susanna Gregory is the pseudonym of an academic at Cambridge. Before studying anthropology she worked in a coroner's office.

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Customer Reviews

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There are now a number of books in the series and they are always eagerly awaited by the author's fans.
J. Chippindale
It's an interesting topic with the main characters well defined, but I found it to be an unnecessarily wordy book, with points being repeated over and over.
Beverley Strong
I didn't find the characters developed in enough depth to really interest me, and the plot seemed shallow and overwrought at the same time.
Beth Adcock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael OConnor TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES introduces us to Matthew Bartholomew, a 14th Century physician working at the University of Cambridge. Bartholomew, whose medical views are ridiculed by other less progressive doctors, investigates the suspicious death of a high college official, the first in a series of deaths that he soon realizes is connected with a shadowy power struggle between the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. As the body count rises, these deaths become overshadowed by the onslaught of the Black Death, which has been sweeping through Europe and now England.

On the book's plus side, Gregory certainly has an eye for detail; her depictions of Cambridge circa-1348 transport you back to that time. Likewise the characters were fairly well-rounded and I enjoyed Bartholomew.

The book, however, is a long stretch of road, being 402 pages long. I felt some of Bartholomew's endless speculations after each new murder were repetitious. How many times can you read "Could so-and-so be...?" "But then how did...?" "And what is so-and-so's role in this?" before enough is enough.

Frankly I thought the Black Death was a much more interesting subject than the intercollegiate rivalry plot element. Gregory's descriptions of the disease's utter devastation made for gripping reading. I would have much preferred she dumped the Oxford-Cambridge intrigue and focused the story on the incredible impact the Black Death has on a town like Cambridge and the efforts of a 14th Century physician to save the townspeople.

In short, the book has shortcomings but also enough merit that readers should enjoy the story and look forward to the next installment of Bartholomew's adventures.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts VINE VOICE on April 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I had a bit of trouble caring about the supposed motive behind the murders and found it overly complicated. But I did care about the character of Matthew. He is well drawn, interesting and a character I would follow through a series. For me, though, the most interesting aspect was Matt's trying to deal with the plague and its impact, which was beyond imagination. It was a good first book; enough so that I shall read more of the series.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Strong on May 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
The black plague is spreading through England and, in 1348, it reaches the newly formed college of Cambridge, decimating the scholars and masters alike. Physician Matthew Bartholomew, struggles to find both a cause and a cure, with his modern ideas on cleanliness and good sanitation being scorned as nonsense by the other doctors at the University. A rash of unexplained deaths occurs at the same time as the arrival of the plague, which gives the murderers a good chance of passing the deaths off as being plague related. It's an interesting topic with the main characters well defined, but I found it to be an unnecessarily wordy book, with points being repeated over and over. I was considering this series to be a follow up to my beloved Cadfael series but...perhaps one more to make sure!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on September 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Matthew Bartholomew is a physician and instructor at Michaelhouse, one of the Colleges at the young Cambridge University. His views of medicine are rather unorthodox for the 14th century, and he is viewed with suspicion by other doctors. On the eve of the Black Death, in the summer of 1348, the Master of Michaelhouse, Sir John, turns up dead. Everyone assumes it must be suicide, but Bartholomew has his doubts--especially since more bodies turn up. Bartholomew's investigation leads him to something much better--a potential plot by Oxford scholars to undermine the credibility of Cambridge, perhaps?

Bartholomew is one of the more interesting and complicated detectives I've come across in a long while. He's not limited by the medical practices of the period (as we're told early on, his training was unorthodox, too), so he does seem a bit too modern at times (for example, in addition to being a physician, he also practices surgery, which at that time was practiced by barbers). I liked the plot; and as some who studied the 14th century as a student (even wrote a paper on the Black Death), I was interested by Bartholomew's appraisal of the pestilence. He may have been trained by eastern doctors, but Bartholomew is just as in the dark about the bubonic plague as anybody else is in 14th century England. My interest was in the effect the plague had on the medieval mindset, so I was interested to see how people reacted: from self-flagellation, to going stark, staring mad, to throwing caution to the wind and enjoying full-tilt the pleasures of life, it's all seen in this novel. Well done, there.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale on January 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Susanna Gregory is the pseudonym of a Cambridge academic who was previously a coroner's officer. Her series of mediaeval mysteries have gained a formidable following. This book is the first in the series and introduces the physician Matthew Bartholomew to the reader. There are now a number of books in the series and they are always eagerly awaited by the author's fans.

Besides practising medicine Matthew is also a teacher at a Cambridge University and his sometimes unorthodox treatment of his patients draws accusations of heresy from his more traditional, but less skilled colleagues.

The year is 1348 and the inhabitants of Cambridge live under the shadow of a terrible pestilence that has swept through northern Europe, crossed the channel and moved voraciously through southern England. As if Matthew had not enough to contend with he is distracted by the death of the Master of the university, an inexplicable death and one that the authorities do not seem to want solving.

When three more scholars died in unexplained circumstances Bartholomew decides enough is enough and begins his own enquiry into the death, but his pursuit of the truth leads him into a complex tangle of lies and deceit that causes him to question the innocence or otherwise of close friends and even his family. On top of all this the Black Death has finally arrived in Cambridge . . .
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