Book: Ashes to Ashes

It's time to return to Bampton for the further adventures of Master Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon and Bailiff to Lord Gilbert Talbot. The "medieval medical murder mystery" section in the library isn't particularly big, but as long as Mel Starr's series is there, it's big enough.

Ashes to Ashes is the eighth entry in this series. Once again, we find a mysterious body and Master Hugh is called upon to determine who, what, when, where, and how the evil deed took place. His travels take him to the nearby village of Kencott and the local politics there. 

As always, Starr takes his readers into a medieval world that requires a glossary at the beginning, a map after that, and an historical note at the end. The book is written in a first-person style, so whatever Master Hugh does not know, we readers do not know.

Since this is the eighth novel in a series, the reader would be better served to start earlier in the series. Once you know a bit of the background of Hugh, his marriage to Katie, and his standing in the medieval world, this story flows well. We are given a glimpse into the life of an English village and the difficulties that life brings.

Master Hugh generally describes the cultural and economic situations as they were. He provides some commentary on the injustice of life, generally as discontent without solution. He also establishes some distaste for the religious practices of the day without knowing how to separate those from his devotion to the "Lord Christ." On a personal note, I miss the inclusion of John Wycliffe, who has been absent since the earlier books--apparently, he's just still in London. This doesn't harm Ashes to Ashes, I'd just like to see him back.

The writing style is challenging at times, as Starr uses words from the medieval era seamlessly. One would be wise to thumb through that glossary, especially for dates and festivals, every now and then before progressing to the next chapter.

(Free book in exchange for the review)

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