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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 March 2010
Some second novels can be really disappointing - it's almost as if the author has used up all available creativity. This short novel seemed to me to be more relaxed and authorative than the first in the series. I found the plotting much more assured, and the character development continues apace, as I had hoped. As in the first in the series, there are far too many inappropriate uses of "t'" as a shortform for "the" (or perhaps "to" in some cases) in the reported speech of uneducated characters. (I have noticed other US authors have difficulties in portraying English speech patterns.) Although the author has obviously spent a lot of time in the UK and has many friends here, some of his descriptions of our fauna - and particularly our flora - seemed a bit odd, though I am sure that in the US these very minor issues pass without notice. All in all, an enjoyable read, with a sympathetic and very human narrator, who does seem to be developing in a promising way. I look forward to the next in the series, which I understand is on the way.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2009
This is a story in its own right but the background thread runs from the first Chronicle and continues to the next. It is a very well written and interesting read as the research has been thorough and the story good it flows well making it easy to follow. It is about a surgeon/bailiff in medieval times who investigates a murder as well as performing operations, which to us now appear crude and painful, but it is a facinating insight into those times. If you like history and murder and medicine all three subjects are in this story in abundance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 January 2012
I am in the process of rereading the first novels in this series to prepare myself for the latest fourth installment. Although on the whole they are enjoyable reads and competently written, I do have a few niggles. The first and most important is that I simply do not need to know everything that the main protagonist has for every meal. As medieval meals ran to three or four courses; three 'removes' (course) and a subtlety (dessert) this tends to take up quite a bit of the prose. In fact he mentions it so often you are tempted to think it is part of the plot. This can be quite important to those people like me who try to work out whodunnit throughout the book. (Hope I did not spoil it there)
The second point finds myself in agreement with previous reviewer's. The mistakes in the descriptions flora and fauna and the American spelling of certain words, (plow for plough for instance or the interchanging of brambles and nettles); the attempt to find a middle ground between modern and medevial speech, all do tend to grate on my admittedly purist ear. Lots of 'Twas's' and 'appen that way'. These are however trivial points. (The author is obviously a severe Anglophile) Overall the plot is workaday and quite enjoyable. It does not require much by way of thought. Some of the medevial wording is interesting in a triva quiz kind of way. In short a resonable way to pass time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2011
Having given a mixed review to book 1 in the series, I turned to book 2 with no great expectations. As a mystery novel, it's no great shakes. I didn't really care who had murdered a pair of mediaeval Oxfordshire peasants, so the resolution of the crime left me cold.There weren't very many suspects to choose from, so the solution didn't come as much of a surprise.

But from a social history point of view, the book is fascinating. The light shed on everyday life in different levels of society was for me the most interesting aspect of the book. I had never really thought, for instance, about the differences in diet between servants working in a castle and peasants toiling in the fields. I presume the author has researched the social background of the period. He has certainly been reading mediaeval cookery books as we are given endless details of just about every meal our hero consumes.

As for the language of the peasants, it has shifted from the "Trooble at t'mill" pseudo-Yorkshire dialect of book 1 to a risible cod yokel of the " 'E be dead, 'e be" variety. What I found irksome in the first book became increasingly hilarious in book 2. I suppose allowances have to be made for an American author with no ear for the nuances of British dialect. Besides, in 15th c Oxfordshire NOBODY would have spoken as they do today, so in a sense all the dialogue is "pretend".

This sounds like a totally negative review, but it's not. The hero Hugh de Singleton is self-deprecating and rather appealing, and the plot, while not exciting, is interesting enough to make a good read, and the historical background fascinating. Another 3 out of 5.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2012
Not having read any of the other books by this author before I was unsure how he would shape up but I was very pleasantly surprised. The story was well written and kept one's interest throughout and seemed pretty authentic in its description of medieval life. Certainly there were no glaring inconsistencies and I would say that he knows his period well. Mel Starr's style and approach was very similar to the great Ellis Peters and I would say he could definitely give her a run for the money. A very worthy read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2010
I really enjoyed this book and felt that it lived up to its earlier promise. Hugh de Singleton is a fully rounded character and his descriptions of his surgery are very informative and, as far as I know but not from personal experience, applicable to the period! I'm glad there was a little romantic thread after his upset in his last escapade and am looking forward to the next book in the series. I enjoy the Mathew Bartholomew books by Susanna Gregory and this is almost in the same league.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2014
Isn't it lovely to read a historical crime novel with no airy, fairy nonsense? Easy reading and interesting, as always. Though I don't think my husband appreciates me telling him, "that's not my bailliwik."
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2010
"A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel" is Mel Starr's second novel in his Hugh de Singleton series. Singleton, a surgeon lives in the village of Bampton, about a day's ride away from Oxford. He has moved to Bampton to practice surgery and in Starr's first book he solves a crime for lord of the manor and is appointed the manor's bailiff, in addition to his medical duties. Both of Hugh's official duties are called into service when bodies are discovered in and around Bampton.

Hugh is a "surgeon", which differs from being a "doctor" in medieval times. Doctoring at the time was based, in large part, of examining patients and prescribing treatment on the basis of the body's "humours". Bleeding and other primitive methods were used as "cures". Prayer probably worked about as well in those days as medical treatment. Surgeons were different because they actually worked to set bones and perform basic operations. Hugh also cultivated his own herbal remedies to aid in both the anesthetic part of surgery and in the healing process afterward. It's interesting to "listen in" as Hugh tries to understand the vagaries of the human body. He can't figure out, for example, why one side of the body is affected by a blow to the other side of the brain.

But the practice of medicine is only one part of the story. The others include the spate of lawlessness hitting the town of Bampton and Hugh's own search for a bride. Starr is very good about detailing life in the late medieval period. For another, non-fictional, look at England in the 14th century, buy Ian Mortimer's new book, "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England".

But I'm trying to see where Starr is going with his series and I think it's heading right towards John Wycliffe, Oxford religious scholar and leader of a group called the Lollards. Wycliffe played a small role in Starr's first book, a larger one in this, his second, and a seemingly larger role in Starr's third book, which is excerpted at the end of the second. As I am fascinated by the Catholic Church and the Reformation, I'm glad Starr seems to be aiming at the burgeoning reformation movements. I'll be back for #3, in any case!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2012
A thoroughly enjoyable novel that takes one back to Bampton so long ago. Enjoyed his second novel as well and looking forward to the third which is waiting in Kindle.
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on 6 June 2013
Having devoured all the Crowner John novels by Sir Bernard Knight I was desperately seeking something that would measure up to them when I discovered Mel Starr's Hugh Singleton. Although not quite as brilliant as my beloved Crowner John series, the three Hugh Singleton novels I have read so far have been thoroughly enjoyable with solid characters, interesting plots and a wealth of detail that transports the reader to the middle ages. I look forward to the 4th in the series which I have just downloaded to my Kindle!
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