21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
"Unhallowed Ground" is the fine fourth installment of the Hugh de Singleton series by Mel Starr. 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. A perceptive and principled man for the times, de Singleton has emerged into kind of early police detective, who is kept busy by a continuous stream of crimes--major and minor--ranging from curfew violation to game poaching to murder. "Unhallowed..." opens with the death of a village one-man-crimewave, Thomas atta-Bridge. Bailiff de Singleton quickly concludes that the death, staged to look like suicide, is actually a murder. There is immediately a long list of suspects. The victim was hated by virtually everyone in the village of Brampton, where he and de Singleton live. The Bailiff himself has reason to rejoice at att-Bridge's death as the man had twice tried to kill him. From this point forward, the novel follows a classic police procedural course as de Singleton works to pare down the list of murder suspects. Early into the process, he and his new wife Kate become murder targets, effectively opening a second storyline.
There are a couple of things that made this novel above average reading for me. The characters are mostly well sketched and accessible. While the protagonist is not Mensa-smart, he is logical, fair-minded and a credible everyman kind of guy. This storyline sends him into one sleuthing blind alley after another, and after each dead end, he doggedly and convincingly reassesses and moves on.
The second element that I liked about this book--and others in the series--is the great amount of detail about daily life in medieval England that is included in the stories. Author Starr has done an enormous amount of research for this series and provides a helpful glossary at the beginning of the books. The overall result is to give palpable authenticity to the work.
A good read and recommended.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2011
Unhallowed Ground is an intriguing historical mystery with likable characters, dry humor, and genuinely thoughtful commentary on the nature of humanity and Christianity. I find Mel Starr's writing refreshingly straightforward and this is another fine story in an excellent series. There are revealing references to previous books and few words wasted getting you up to speed, so read them in order: "The Unquiet Bones", "A Corpse at St. Andrews", "A Trail of Ink", "Unhallowed Ground", and hopefully many more.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
In the fourth chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff, Hugh is faced with a terrible ethical struggle. Should he pursue a murder investigation in the name of justice, when the murderer did society a huge favor?
Thomas atte Bridge - thief, blackmailer, rapist, bully and cheat - is found hanging one morning near unhallowed ground where suicides are buried. The authorities conclude that he died by his own hand. But Hugh, with his keen surgeon's eye, spots signs that point to murder.
Investigating this murder, however, is uphill work. Thomas atte Bridge has victimized so many people that Hugh's list of suspects is dauntingly long, and full of his good friends.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hugh's painfully conscientious inquiries, his self-doubts, and his rather sweet dependence on his wife's opinions. As always, Hugh's herbal medicines are quite interesting, as are his meals. Wish I could sample the coney pie and maslin loaf! There are also wonderful examples of bizarre medieval beliefs in this book.
Author Mel Starr, historian and scholar of medieval surgery, infuses the chronicles of Hugh de Singleton with a strong feeling of authenticity.
To appreciate the subtle charm of this series, I really think you need to read all the books, and in sequence. Mel Starr does fill in details from previous books, but lots of characters reappear - and there's nothing like knowing them in depth.
Here are the chronicles in order: (1) Unquiet Bones, (2) A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel, (3) A Trail of Ink and (4) Unhallowed Ground.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Mel Starr fan (as I am), you'll like "Unhallowed Ground."
In the fourth book of a series, young Hugh de Singleton continues his career as a bailiff, surgeon, and detective. Violence has invaded the small 13th century community of Bampton, England, with suicide, murder, arson, and attacks on Hugh's life. As bailiff for Lord Gilbert Talbot, Hugh must solve the interlocking crimes.
One helpful aid for modern readers is a glossary with definitions of such words as "leirwite," "suffusio," and "toft." Placement of the list at the front of the book makes it easy to check a meaning without having to stop and hunt.
In comparison with the rest of the series, "Unhallowed Ground" is a bit more slowly paced, but will undoubtedly satisfy readers who seek out the quieter air of medieval life.
I was pleased to see that a fifth Hugh de Singleton book, "The Tainted Coin," is already planned, and I eagerly await its coming.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2012
For the most part I enjoyed Starr's latest Hugh de Singleton mystery. As a fan of history, I found the historical setting of the novel to be outstanding. I appreciated the glossary of medieval terms at the beginning of the book, and used it more often than I thought that I would.
The book had a pretty good flow, but it seems a bit dull in areas. I haven't read the first Hugh de Singleton mystery, and I wonder if I would have gotten more out of this novel by reading the first novel in the series?
I came away a little disappointed with the ending of "Unhallowed Ground". However, the tease of the first chapter of "The Tainted Coin", the fifth book in the series, has me wanting to read more Hugh de Singleton.
While it isn't the best Mel Starr mystery, I would still recommend it for the history, mystery crowd.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2012
Opinion: By way of a brief introduction the series is set in the late 1300s (14th century) and the protagonist Hugh de Singleton is the younger son of a knight who trained as a surgeon (different from a physician) and was subsequently appointed Bailiff of the Oxfordshire Village of Bampton after treating the Local Lord. Bampton is a real village a short distance from Oxford, and most of Hugh's sleuthing and medical work takes place in and around the region.
With this particular installment, the fourth in the series, I was generally satisfied. The crime itself is not described in graphic detail, nor does the author seem to delight in gory descriptions of brutal acts, and the aspects of social history are interesting. Some of the descriptions of medieval surgery and medical practice are also fascinating, as well as the everyday lives of ordinary folk.
Yet the novel does seem to drag a little towards the middle. The main reason for this seems to have been that Hugh just did not have much to do, and so his daily life and routine just seems to have become part of the plot, and, whilst this work for a while, it cannot always hold one's interest. Admittedly, it would not be much of a mystery novel if the case was solved easily or quickly, and the process of investigation is as important as the resolution, yet the story just seemed slow and plodding in parts.
Overall, `Unhallowed Ground' was and enjoyable read, likely to satisfy lovers of historical fiction if their expectations are not too high. Those who expect the High Drama of political intrigue will be disappointed, but those who prefer `cosy' rural settings may take to it more. As murder mystery it is good, though perhaps not the best, the most intriguing element may the protagonist belonging to a much misunderstood and underrated profession which the author has clearly taken trouble to acquaint himself with.
History: The historical elements seem to be well done, plausible and authentic- and appear to be well researched for the most part. The glossary is useful for the more unfamiliar terms. The one thing which does seem out of place is the accents of the characters- they seem a little- odd. I am not familiar the Oxfordshire accent, but I don't think it sounds anything like one the lower class characters have in the novel, which seems like a bizarre mixture of West Country (Devon/Cornwall) and Northern.
Christianity/ Morality: The novels in this series often include exploration of moral or religious subjects, which can help to add a somewhat deeper element to the story. In this case, Hugh has to confront his own prejudice when seeking out as supposed felon, and his own beliefs are bought into question when it appears that the former murderer, blackmailer and thief has indeed repented and chosen to truly follow God.
Yet the conclusion of the moral dilemma which results solving of the murder is distinctly unsatisfactory, as well as morally questionable, which is the main reason why I gave this novel a lower rating than I perhaps would have done.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2014
I love the Hugh De Singleton series of books, don't get me wrong. Thus far, this one left me a little disappointed. I think the predecessors were by far better. Nevertheless, I look forward to journeying with Hugh on his next adventure. You can't always hit one out of the park. I still recommend reading Unhallowed Ground, so as not to interrupt the unfolding of Hugh's history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2014
Another excellent historical mystery. Mel Starr does an awesome job describing the lives and customs of people living in the 14th century. I have read the first four books in the Hugh De Singleton series and plan to continue and until I've read them all.
on January 28, 2012
In Mel Starr's fourth tale of Hugh de Singleton, medieval surgeon, Unhallowed Ground, we find our protagonist investigating the murder of one Thomas atte Bridge after this unlikable fellow is found hanging from a tree. While Master Hugh would like to believe the popular opinion that the victim took his own life, his finding of evidence to the contrary requires him to investigate his friends and neighbors to determine who took the life of their common enemy.
I enjoyed this book immensely. The story, which is written in the first person, pulled me in and helped me to understand the culture through the eyes of one of its inhabitants. A thorough glossary is included in the front of the book for assistance in understanding some of the more archaic terms that are used throughout the book. That is to say, the book is not only enjoyable but also educational. The story is also aided by a map in the front of the book that shows where locations in the book are in relation to each other.
One of the things that I enjoyed about the book was seeing the author's own modern-day thoughts expressed through the Master Hugh. Numerous times in the book the narrator explains a religious or other practice or belief and then offers his disagreement with the practice or belief. It is fascinating to see some aspects of the culture of 1366 and these comments helped to remind me that it is unrealistic to believe that the entire population agreed with all of what we would now consider primitive ideas.
Among other things, the book shows that Christ can change our hearts and that we must not assume that this fact applies only to ourselves. Master Hugh learns this lesson when he takes a long journey to find the man he is certain committed the murder only to find someone else entirely.
I was afraid that a book about a medieval surgeon would include descriptions of medical practices that I would rather not know about (or be reminded of), but this was not the case. While it did describe some medical procedures, I found the descriptions non-nightmare-inducing.
This is an excellent book and I encourage you to read it if you like mysteries and/or historical fiction.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
"Unhallowed Ground" is the fourth book in the "Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon", however, it is easily read as a stand-alone. This is the first of the series I have read, and I found no problems with starting at this point. There is enough information and character development that I could easily connect and not feel lost.
Taking place in 14th Century Bampton, England, Unhallowed Ground centers around Master Hugh de Singleton who is both a surgeon and bailiff to Sir Gilbert. Master Hugh is a walking contradiction because he's looked at with suspicion because of his job as bailiff and revered because of being a good surgeon. This makes for a very interesting protagonist.
Written in first person and being able to see through the eyes of Master Hugh was fascinating and made for a captivating and unforgettable story. When he sees Thomas atte Bridge hanging from the tree and studies him, he discovers that the apparent suicide is possibly not a suicide at all. As he continues his investigation, he discovers not only was Thomas atte Bridge a despicable man (worse than he originally knew), but he wrestles with the thought of possibly arresting a neighbor or "good" person who was involved in the murder.
Master Hugh is newly married and discusses this information with his wife, Kate. She is an intelligent woman who also noticed from the beginning that Thomas atte Bridge's death was not as it seemed. With each dead end Master Hugh would hit, Kate would be there as a sounding board and help him decide if it was worth continuing the investigation.
This book was an amazing read! I am so taken with the writing style of Mr. Starr, that I really want to read all the books in this series. He is truly a brilliant writer who seems to effortlessly bring to life 14th Century England. His prose and ability to describe in detail day-to-day life transports the reader back in time and allows on to actually feel like they are a part of that time period.
This book comes HIGHLY recommended!