Top critical review
Not Cadfael but entertaining
on 14 May 2017
Generally I like these books and have read the first 6 now. I like the main characters of Matthew the long suffering physician and Michael his, arrogant and bossy friend and frankly, in fact I think I read the books more for their interaction than anything else. If you are interested in the murder mystery elements more than character interaction you will likely sometimes find those elements unrealistically convoluted and the plotting of these and the politics of the colleges varies greatly in quality. This book ends with a ridiculously casual voting in of the next Master, the new master being Ralph Langalee who is yet another unbelievable person. He is voted inby people like father William who have good reason to patently dislike the man. Honestly after just getting rid of a bully and a beast of a master they vote in someone almost as bad and moreover a man who is too dim to be a scholar never mind a master!? It us so unlikely it's annoying.
Sometimes in these books the 'bad guys' have an incredible number of helpers who commit the most dreadful crimes on their behalf when these helpers have little motivation to do so and have no prior history of either violence or crime and are otherwise sane and decent. When these plot elements appear they are just fanciful nonsense and frankly annoying. The author has used that plot element too often after only 6 books, I hope she had the sense to not use it again but I doubt I'm that lucky.
The books are full of errors too, the last one had Matt stating that Job not Jonah was swallowed by a whale and in this book he says Lincoln is not a big town, when at the time, even at after the plague Lincoln's population was larger than that of Cambridge by upwards of a thousand people which made both it and Cambridge medium sized towns for the time. The reader sometimes get frustrated at how slow Matt and Michael are at spotting the obvious and although I like many of the regular supporting players I cannot believe they would d behave as they do in these books. Edith, Matt's much older sister is totally unbelievable. I am 12 years older than my younger brother and due to my mother's health problems I virtually raised him. There is no way that I, or any sensible woman which Edith is otherwise portrayed as, would encourage her brother to befriend one of the towns most well known prostitutes. Matilde, the suddenly non practicing prostitute, is another unbelievable character. Presumably she did not set herself up in such a risky profession because she had other means to support herself and yet for the last two books she has suddenly found a way not to maintain her comforts with out indulging in solicitation. I would like her if she was not so unbelievable and frankly she's far too nice for a character we already know mixes with criminal types like some of her past clients and the sad truth is most prostitutes wanted rid of babies Regularly, as they interfered with business and they would be more likely to bankroll a safer method of abortion than a safer method of birth. The tart with a heart character is very much overused in detective novels and the idea that a man as fastidious as Matt would be so greatly attracted to Matilde (even taking in account her looks) us not high. She might be clean but how would he put out of his mind her less fastidious clients and all the diseases she has potentially been exposed to 3 This is almost as unlikely as his respectable, protective older sister encouraging a friendship that would make Matt less appealing to respectable women like herself and might lead to an ill advised marriage which would see her potential nieces and nephews being mocked as other children called their mother nasty names.
If you can forgive far fetched characters, the odd inaccuracies and over convoluted plotting you are sometimes amused, occasionally surprised and now and then very pleased.