Today’s book is a change of pace for me: The Tainted Coin: The Fifth Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton by Mel Starr. This is a fiction book, set in fourteenth century. It is the fifth book in a series featuring the character Hugh de Singleton, who is a surgeon and a bailiff on a manor in England. Having never heard of this series, I first thought the “fifth chronicle” part was rhetorical, but that turns out to be accurate: this is the fifth in the series.
Here is what it looks like:
The Tainted Coin is historical fiction. The protagonist, one Hugh de Singleton, is a surgeon in the fourteenth century. This means that, contrary to Hawkeye Pierce, he does not often wash his hands nor wear gloves and a mask. Instead, he worries about both what herb to use and the astronomical setting of the surgery. Admittedly, de Singleton does not worry much about the stars, but it is a factor.
As to the writing style, The Tainted Coin worked well. Was this the perfection of Arthur Conan Doyle’s genre? Not quite. But the imagery and the language did evoke a different time. I did not feel like I was reading the same-old crime drama with just the names changed. Starr did evoke the feel of a different time and place. Given that he’s a history professor, he should be able to do that.
The plot of The Tainted Coin is fairly straightforward. There are a few twists and turns, and the who-dunnit is not immediately obvious. However, the ending is more of a “wait, no!” than a “wait, who?” Along the way, the reader also gets a glimpse into the life of both the upper and lower classes in medieval England. These glimpses are informative and frustrating…
Starr has also presented the frustration of justice in those days. This leads to some of the reviewers who have expressed frustration at the unfinished feel of the ending, but I think the point in The Tainted Coin is made through the writing.
I enjoyed reading this, and will pick up the preceding works in the series at a point in the future.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for the review.