44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Good start to a great series,
This review is from: A Plague On Both Your Houses: 1: The First Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew (Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew) (Paperback)
Having read all the Margery Allingham books I could lay my hands on, and finished all of the Ellis Peters (Cadfael) novels, I was looking around for something new to try. "A Plague on Both Your Houses" attracted my attention; and I'm very glad it did.
Bartholomew is a teacher and physician at odds with his times. He believes more in clean water than astrology for example. A physician turned murder investigator in medieval England? Are you thinking Cadfael? There are similarities, but also many differences.... Matthew is not held in high regard by many of his colleagues, even considered heretical by some, and as a member of a University College in a town deeply suspicious of the scholars in it's midst he finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place in a way that Cadfael often isn't. Also, Cadfael is a much more wordly-wise character than the sometimes hopelessly naive Bartholomew.
When I first started reading this, I got to about halfway and almost stopped. It seemed too cut and dried, too easy to spot the murderer. However, I persisted and was rewarded with the discovery that the plot is much more intricate, and in fact my guesses that I was so sure of were far from the actuality. It's considerably deeper than many mystery novels, and when set against a background of an intriguing period of history - the plague years - there's plenty to keep you entertained.
While this book does a good job of introducing Bartholomew and some of the main characters of the series, it also suffers somewhat because of this. The other books in the series that I've read often seem much tighter, in part because some of the past history is already assumed - though like Cadfael and Campion, it's never forgotten. This, coupled with a sometimes slow start, prevent me from giving this novel the top rating. However, I still recommend this book - and indeed the whole series - to anyone that enjoys mystery writing, and especially to those who are looking for something a bit more weighty than Cadfael, Miss Marple and the like sometimes achieve.