on 1 July 2013
...perhaps a more accurate title for this one given the events that take place in Peterborough. This latest installment by the ever-superb Susanna Gregory has Matt and Michael hotfooting (or, perhaps, waddling quickly in the latter's case) out of Cambridge on a seven day mission to locate Abbot Robert who's been missing for a month with the town's only physician Pyk. The deadline has been arbitrarily imposed because Michael feels he needs to get back to personally write the charter for the new Winwick Hall before it causes a right ruckus in Cambridge. This allows Gregory to impart a sense of haste as the motley cavalcade of our sleuthing duo, Langelee, William, and Clippesby arrive just in time to find two hospitals in Peterborough vying for wealth using the dubious relics of either a 143 year old man (Kirwell) or the corpse of a very evil, very dead burglar (name of Lawrence de Oxforde) both of whom apparently grant miracles. Both are also linked because it was Kirwell to whom Oxforde bequeathed a prayer before being hung, Kirwell who was struck by a shaft of light from heaven as he knelt by the latter's grave (all of this takes place in the Prologue).
Of course, such is nonsense but a swift bashing in of the unsavoury Joan's head as Matt and Michael arrive in town leads to a litany of murders greater than number of days to solve them. Who could possibly be responsible? The list is long, starting with the Unholy Trinity of Nonton, Ramseye and Welbyrn - the latter two old foes of Matt after he publicly challenged them whilst a student. He even had a fight with Welbyrn. Of course, the missing abbot has brought out the political scheming of both these three and many others: Reginald the Cutler, Prior Yvo, the unctuous Botilbrig, the soft-handed Spalling (whose incendiary proclamations against the rich lead to a near village pitchfork fight on the road), the pusillanimous Lullington, the innocuous Appletre and Henry, and lastly, but by no means least, Aurifabro - commissioned to make a patten which has now been stopped given the absence of the abbot - general enemy of most of the town and clergy.
It's a series of murders, pure and simple; the common thread is that of personal gain, the spitefulness of some coupled with the hidden motives of others is what makes the mystery intriguing. Finally, Gregory gives us some hope with Mathilde. Matt knows she lives, knows she is trying to find the necessary money to keep them both so he can continue aiding the poor. It's something those who follow Gregory have craved for some novels now and we may finally get to see them together a few novels from now.
As ever I could extol the literary powers of Gregory for a long time, but endless praising reviews seem repetitive to me. It is as brilliant as ever, so brilliant in fact that I've got to pick up Gregory on one point and, given, it's the first in nearly thirty novels, made it stand out, a rarity indeed. She has Bartholomew unhappy with William:
"Bartholomew was not happy with William for volunteering his services in so cavalier a manner".
The word cavalier wasn't around for another hundred-plus years so doubtful he'd think that. Tiny, but given Gregory's skills, it was like finding a plain needle in a golden haystack. I hope Gregory writes another forty novels. Matt deserves it, her readers crave it.
on 5 July 2013
they just keep getting better,taking the characters away from cambridge freshens the series up. this is an excellent adventure with its usual twists and turns,nice to have john clippesby include this time, though i was a bit dismayed to see matilde has appeared again i do hope this isnt signalling the conclusion of this amazing series. i have all the books and read them from the beginning constantly and look forward to each new one coming out.
on 10 July 2013
After some decidedly average, for her, Matthew Bartholomew mysteries Susanna Gregory has returned to the top form of the earlier books set in Cambridge. In this book Matthew Bartholomew is one of the Bishop's Commissioners sent to Peterborough to seek the Abbot who has disappeared without trace. The investigation is hampered by infighting amongst the Benedictine monks to succeed the Abbot, a possible peasant's uprising against the Town's rich businessmen and clashes between the supporters of the various shrines and relics which bring in money to the town. As usual Bartholomew is supported by Brother Michael who also has a personal agenda seeking to be the next Abbot should the existing one not be found alive. The various plots and counter plots are skilfully interwoven by the author who provides a surprising satisfactory conclusion.
on 11 October 2013
It is now a very well worn formula but, it works. The central characters are by now as well known, as are friends and neighbours; with all their pecadillos and characteristics that we either love or hate. Matthews' scruffy appearance, Michaels' 'big bones', and so on. The elusive love interest haunts the mind of Matthew while all to readily it seems the detection of the culprits is derailed by one event or another. The fact that the action is not the University this time adds interest.
Another Matthew Bartholomew...Good oh! Keep them coming.
on 2 September 2014
Good tale again. Am I the only one who doesn't want Matthew to marry Mathilde? He would have to leave Michaelhouse and the university to do that and thus ends his involvement in that fascinating environment brought to life so well by Ms Gregory. I would miss William, Clippesby, Suttone, Langelee and Agatha if Matt left for life as a townsman, not to mention Michael losing a close associate and friend to the very real need for Matthew to earn money to support his practice and wife. Don't do it! Please!!!