The Unquiet Bones
November 27, 2014
Series: The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton
Genre: Historical Mystery
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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Brother Cadfael is one of my favorite Medieval heroes. Alas, Ellis Petters died in 1995, so there will not be any new book with him. But I think I found a very good replacement in The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton.
Cadfael was a monk and he lived in the 12th century. Hugh de Singleton lives in England two centuries later, and he is surgeon and a bailiff, but he studied theology. His spiritual master is none other than John Wyclif (1330-1384) and Hugh goes to asks his advice from time to time. Like Brother Cadfael, Hugh is a very kind man. He is smart, human, spiritual, and down to earth.
Actually, I believe Mel Starr probably enjoys Cadfael himself a lot, and was inspired by him: I don’t think this is a coincidence that his first book has the word “bones”, just as the first book in the Cadfael series (A Morbid Taste for Bones) and both second books have the word “corpse” in common in their titles. This is just one little common point it was fun to discover.
The first book of the series opens with the narrator Hugh: bones have been found at the base of Bampton Castle, so Lord Gilbert called Hugh to try to identify them and find the murderer.
The book is rich with background history, especially circumstances following the Black Death, and many medical details. I really enjoyed the local and colorful characters. There are also great passages on the world of itinerant troupes of the time. There are lots of down to earth and ironic reflections on life and people, and enough red herrings to make the novel quite suspenseful.
I definitely want to read the next books in the series!
It was neat to read that the author found the village of Bampton when he visited friends there in 2001, and he saw this would be a great setting for mystery novels. This is actually the second printing of this book. It was originally published in 2008.
Mel Starr is a history teacher, so you won’t be surprised to find at the beginning of the book an excellent and quite extensive glossary of terms used in the Middle Ages. There’s also a map of Bampton.
Be sure to check his website, with a trailer, lots of great resources, including a calendar in Middle English and Latin.
VERDICT: If you like mysteries set in Medieval England, Hugh of Singleton may be your next favorite character. Discover his world in this first book of the series, and accompany him as he tries to identify the bones of a murdered person and to figure out who might have done it.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Hugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, he feels no real calling-despite his lively faith-and he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris and then hanging his sign in Oxford. Soon after, a local lord asks Hugh de Singleton to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cesspool. Through his medical knowledge, Singleton identifies her as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith. The young man she loved-whom she had provoked very publicly-is quickly arrested and sentenced at Oxford. But this is just the beginning of the tale. The story of Singleton’s adventure unfolds with realistic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, romantic distractions, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion.
Praise for The Unquiet Bones
“This skilfully woven story is a delight to read. The setting is exceptionally well crafted. Highly recommended.” —Davis Bunn, best-selling author
Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.
For more information please visit Mel Starr’s website.
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