How could I have missed this author and why didn’t I find him sooner!!!! Oh how I enjoyed this book! Talk about being transported back into time! It is so unusual to find historical fiction books written about the 1300’s. The setting is Medieval England, 1367. Hugh de Singleton is a surgeon and a bailiff for Lord Talbot. You might say he was a Dr. Quincy, doctor/detective of the time, but his sleuthing depended upon keen observation, intelligence, and quick thinking. There was no internet, forensic medicine, or criminal records to aid him.
The story opens with him being called to the chapel to care for a man the priest had found badly beaten. Before he dies, he utters the words, “They didn’t get me coin”. In preparing the victim for burial, Hugh finds an ancient Roman coin in his mouth. It is now his duty to find the murderers and bring them to justice. His search is not a simple one and leads him into many perilous situations, endangering his family, and one almost costing him his life. The further he investigates the more tangled the mystery becomes and the more problem’s Hugh becomes personally involved in and feels responsible to resolve.
The character’s dialogs are written in the same manner that people would have spoken during that time. For me this added to the realism of the period and drew me into the story as a participant.
In addition to being extremely entertaining, the book was a veritable treasure of history lessons in many aspects. I learned so many new facts! Day to day living, especially with the peasants, was severe and uncompromising. Even the poorest of poor today live better than these did. While nobles and upper-class citizens such as Hugh fared better than the average citizen, their lives were grossly lacking in comparison to ours today. Social classes had clearly drawn lines between them and they were strictly observed.
Hugh’s interaction with the people he meets sheds great light also on what foods were eaten, how it was prepared, superstitions, homes, traditional festivals, and religious ceremonies of that age.
I love anything to do with the medical field and was awestruck by the detailed information about the practice of medicine. The use of herbs was extremely interesting. Who knew crushed lettuce seeds could help pain? A stark reminder of how little they had to work with. Surgery without anesthesia seemed a bit barbaric, but pain was accepted as there was no other remedy. I must admit that I cringed with the patients as I read some of the treatments. Though no extensive medical training as we know today was available, I saw the surgeons definitely had impressive skills. What really stood out was that recovery depended upon food, rest, and allowing the body repair itself. You had to be tough to live during those times!
The author’s detailed research in all these areas not only dispelled my vague ideas of medieval life but also stripped me of many of the modern conveniences and perks I take for granted today.
How Mr. Starr combined, history, mystery, suspense, and humor into one novel is nothing short of amazing, but he did so, and with great skill! This was a book I didn’t want to end. I was thrilled to find out there are 4 previous books in the series and another on the way. I look forward to reading ALL of them and any others Mr. Starr might write.
I received this book free from Kregel Publications. 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.