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4.5 out of 5 stars38
4.5 out of 5 stars
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"The Tainted Coin" continues the saga of 14th Century surgeon and bailiff, Hugh de Singleton, but stands sufficiently alone as a good historical mystery read. The beating death of a traveling tinker/salesman in Brampton, Oxfordshire puts Hugh on a long, winding procedural tour of the region. While the murder is eventually solved, this multi-faceted story quickly morphs into an engrossing cultural and social history that is crammed with information about medieval medicine, food, and the rickety processes of justice.

In Hugh de Stapleton, his wife Kate, the sidekick Arthur and many other secondary characters, author Mel Starr has created credibly three-dimensional subjects who give the story real heft and interest. The descriptions of living conditions and civic organization of the time are also detailed and fully imaginable to the reader. Brought together, the whole well-researched package comes to life in a way that other historical fiction sometimes does not succeed in doing.

Reading the book as a simple crime/police procedural brings another dimension to the book in that the time involved to accomplish any investigation (compared to the modern era) was exceedingly long and often haphazard. Results more often rely on the wit and knowledge of the protagonist vs. the assembly of facts. The stalwart Hugh is certainly up to the challenge and convincingly pulls together answers by book's end, while taking some serious physical and psychological hits along the way. This is credible copper for any period of history.
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on 8 November 2012
Isn't it great when you discover a "new" author! I am so glad that I discovered Mel Starr and his Hugh De Singleton novels. I have read them all to date and hope there will be more to come. I enjoy historical "mystery" novels and these are amongst the better ones. I am not qualified to comment on any research that was required to produce them but they "feel" accurate enough!
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on 14 April 2013
I must admit that the medieval details in the story made the tale ring true and there was some interest to be found in Hugh de Singleton's surgery procedures as most people, I would imagine, wouldn't think anybody would know anything about surgery at the time but all this cannot reconcile me to the paucity of the plot itself. As for the characters they are cardboard thin with no personality to speak of and the author describes them with a lack of detail that is baffling. It's as if for him, it is enough to know whether a fellow be tall and broad or short and stout. This is basically all we get! As for ulterior motives, character analysis, there is simply none to be had. And the plot suffers from a haphazard series of events that seem to stem not from the story going logically from clue to clue but from the author's desire to advance his plot or not. One such example is Amice and her children's kidnapping. It takes Hugh a good many days to find them and free them. Not that he is to be blamed for it , as he first stumbles upon and frees an ungrateful maiden, at the same time endangering the life of the villein he overpowered to free her, thus setting himself the arduous task of saving the villein's life when his lord and master would want him flogged and hanged, sustaining a grievous wound when fleeing with said villein and having to take some days off to recover. But during all this and when the mother and children were at the mercy of murderous squires, we are expected to believe that those squires who didn't hesitate to beat to death the man she was to marry, simply kidnapped her and her kids, shut them up in a deserted house until the day when she should be willing to reveal where a treasure lay buried, without resorting to violence. Those squires 'patience defies imagination. I do not wish the babes any harm but were I a murderous thug I wouldn't hesitate to use the children to force the mother into confession mode. That they didn't do so cannot be believed. And as for the ending... what of the Roman coin found in the dead man's mouth, what of the treasure everybody' s been seeking high and low what of the murderers.... oh yes we know who they are by the end but do they get arrested, questioned and executed? No! Is the presence of the coin explained? No! Is the treasure found? No, yet again.... A wild goose chase if ever there was one which left me bored to tears! after I had just been reading some Charles Todd at the speed of light.... The comparison is stark indeed. I am now back with Charles Todd that I started only this morning and I have reached two thirds already... Good bye Master Hugh, you simply don't stand a chance in that competition.....
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on 5 November 2012
An excellent evocation of the time and attitudes of the people (characters). I look forward to further episodes. Keep writing.
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on 31 October 2012
Hugh de Singleton is a man trying to solve murders, which he does very successfully.
He has no fingerprinting/DNA evidence/etc to help and finds ingenious ways to detect!
Good story and I am looking forward to the next one!
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on 25 October 2012
Another very good Mel Starr book. He captures the period very well, and his characters, with Hugh de Singleton in the lead are all well written.The plot can be confusing, but that s the mark of a good book. Worth every penny.
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on 21 December 2013
I find this author's books compelling. The C14 is not often explored and his writing style draws you in. The researched facts are fascinating and the characters are cleverly woven around them.
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on 18 May 2016
I have enjoyed this series in order of the Surgeon / Baliff Hugh De Singleton and his writings. This story unfortunately for me did not hold my interest too much. I found the story a bit boring & repetitive, with too much time spent travelling to and fro to stake outs.
I will carry on reading the series and hope this one has been a blip in what has always been a 5 star rating from me.
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on 23 April 2014
Having read all the series so far,I've come to the conclusion that what I like best about this book and all the others,is their pace and the main characters amiable likability . Having said that ,if your looking for a gripping ending,then don't expect to much,as I find the endings on most of his books a bit tame. But if you like a good snapshot of rural 14thc life,you'll love these books.
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on 28 December 2012
Mel Starr again gives his readers another memorable insight into the life and times of Hugh De singletons and medieval England, it's social, political and religious history is portrayed, in a simple yet truthful of its time in history, characters and plot a pleasure to read,looking forward to many more. A must for medieval mystery readers
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