Interesting medieval mystery set in 14th c. Oxford
May 28, 2011
St. Paul, MN
The year is 1365, and Hugh de Singleton a surgeon turned bailiff returns to the town of Oxford, England. Singleton stumbles upon a mystery surrounding his friend Master John Wycliffe, Warden of Canterbury Hall. As it happens, Hugh de Singleton has a flair for solving mysteries, and apprehending the offenders. This time, the crime involves a scholar's library -- and Hugh's own heart.
Author Mel Starr, in "A Trail of Ink", enthralls us with his third installment of his "Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon". The mystery and intrigue of life in the medieval age are brought to life through Starr's attention to detail in his descriptions of life in Oxford. He takes us to taverns and inns, college halls and monasteries, castle anterooms and dungeons -- virtually every corner of Oxford. Starr also illustrates courting customs, legal proceedings, surgical procedures, and even roof repair through Hugh's adventures in the story.
Not having read the first two books in the series didn't really impact my enjoyment of this tale. The characters are all sufficiently introduced again for new readers. While the story is told from Hugh's point of view, primarily, he has a faithful sidekick as a companion on his misadventures. We learn some of John Wycliffe and Singleton's Lord Gilbert. Kate, the damsel Hugh's entranced by, also wins our attention.
The plot has numerous twists and turns, and the pace of the book speeds up from its somewhat slow beginning. The fun in reading this book is entering the world of 14th Century England. Singleton also has ample time for spiritual reflection in between his jaunts as surgeon, detective and bailiff. Christian readers won't find objectionable content in this book. It's a fun and interesting tale, with a unique setting. I'll be looking out for the first two books in this series, and the promised fourth adventure.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Books (distributors for Monarch Books) for review as part of the Lit-Fuse Publicity Blog Tour. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
I came across Mel Starr's books last summer and was immediately intrigued by the setting (medieval Oxford and surrounding areas, chiefly Bampton and Bampton Castle). I'm privileged to have visited Oxford and several of the surrounding towns a little over two years ago, and was pleased to recognize many of the places Starr takes us to in this series. But his main character, Hugh de Singleton, a surgeon and graduate of Oxford is my main draw to the books. A Trail of Ink is the third book in this series, and involves the theft of books from my favorite minor character throughout the books: John Wycliffe. Master Wycliffe asks Hugh to investigate the theft, and soon Hugh encounters several "accidents" in his pursuit of the thief. To make matters even more confusing, somehow his suit for Kate, a stationer's daughter, seems to be tied into Kate's other, and in Hugh's mind, much more qualified suitor. The author weaves a tale of crime and love using the language and manners of a time long past. While the language and style may slow the beginning down a little until you get used to it, it won't take long before you're pulled back into the world of 14th-century Oxford. Definitely worth reading, and a series that's high on my list of must-read historical mysteries.
"A Trail of Ink: The third chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon" by Mel Starr was quite unique. It took me a while to read the language comfortably as the author wrote in first person in the Old English language of the day. A glossary in the front of the book helped with this, and once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed the book.
Hugh de Singleton reminded me of Sherlock Holmes in an earlier time period. A bailiff and doctor, he also solves crimes when necessary. In this case, he's trying to discover who stole his friend and mentor's collection of valuable books. At the same time, he's courting Kate and fending off assaults from a competitor for her heart.
Many aspects of medieval history touched on in this book were interesting. Books were valuable because they had to be hand-copied. Scholars traded what they had in order to make copies for themselves. If you ordered one from a bookseller, he found someone to make a copy for you and you might have to wait three months for it! The legal process was complex and unmerciful. The courtship process was amazingly simple, except for the dowry. I got a kick out of reading about it.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and medieval history will enjoy this book. I thank the Litfuse Publicity Group for sending a complimentary copy for my review.
In this third story of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon, Hugh travels to Oxford. He left Bampton Castle, where he is bailiff (general overseer of operations), to remedy his solitary state. He goes to Robert Caxton's stationer's shop with the cover task of buying some parchment and ink. But his real goal was to see and court Kate, Caxton's "comely" daughter.
He pays a visit to a teacher he had at Balliol College, Master John Wyclif. Wyclif is greatly disturbed for his books have been stolen. He implores Hugh to find them and thus begins Hugh's third adventure.
Hugh faces opposition on every side. There is another suitor after Kate and he is a nasty man. And in the task of recovering the stolen books, evidence is lacking. Hugh has to use his wits to determine an effective method of discovery.
I really enjoyed the writing style of Mel Starr. He is a master of creating beautiful sentences. It felt like I was reading a novel from a generation ago when authors, I think, spent more time in perfecting their craft. This novel was a joy to read.
At the front of the book are two additions that help the reader. The first is a glossary. Having it at the front of the book is a brilliant idea. (Many times I have struggled through a book to find an unannounced glossary in the back. It is too late to use it then as I have already finished the book!) The other great feature is a map of Oxford as it was around 1375.
This is a well written book. If you enjoy fine literature (and a good whodunit), you'll like this book.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Kregel Publications, for the purpose of this review.
3rd in Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series is winner
March 14, 2011
A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr is the third book in the Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series which takes place in 14th century England. Hugh has gone to Oxford to visit his former teacher and friend Master John Wyclif who quickly asks him to discover who has stolen his entire library of twenty-two books, quite a collection at that time. Hugh has another reason to spend time in Oxford, Kate Caxton, the daughter of a stationer, who has recently agreed to allow him to court her. Hugh's master, Lord Gilbert, gives Hugh leave to both investigate the theft and to come home with a wife, both jobs Hugh takes to with a relish. But the theft is far more complicated than it first appears, and wooing Kate's heart just may be dangerous to Hugh's very life. I absolutely adore this series; it's one of my current favorites. I find myself smiling throughout, laughing aloud occasionally at the exceptionally witty dialogue, and gasping at the thrills. I'm not normally a "loud" reader, but Starr's writing pulls me in some completely, I can't help myself. Hugh's careful courting of Kate is a delightful and smart. This is a couple who will only get better with age, and Kate already enjoys aiding Hugh in his investigations. Starr manages to mix together history, murder, political machinations, faith, and romance with exceptional results. May Hugh and Kate live happily ever after, providing us with many sequels to come.