A MASTERLY MURDER by Susanna Gregory
Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles No 6

Warner (Little, Brown) - June 2001
ISBN 0751525367 - Paperback
Historical Mystery - 1353, England

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.com
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It's November 1353 in Cambridge and Matthew Bartholomew has deaths to investigate as usual.  A master from the neighboring (a bitter rival) Bene't College has fallen from some scaffolding and his fellow master John Runham's book bearer Justus has committed suicide - or has he?  When Kenyngham, master of Michaelhouse College decides to retire competition to succeed him his rife but his successor Runham turns out to be even worse than anticipated. Then to cap it all Matt's sister thinks it is high time he was married, and what does former unpopular master Wilson and his doings during the Plague year have to do with it all?

After the excesses of the pervious book (A Wicked Deed) I was glad to discover that Gregory has decided not to make this a comedic series after all.  The humor is still there - and frequently most welcome, adding a dimension missing in the majority of modern novels - but it does not swamp the story.  The plot is convoluted and teasing as a good mystery should be and I certainly didn't manage to guess it all.  As for the history it was interesting to discover that many of the characters actually existed (although presumably not exactly as they are portrayed here) but I don't know enough about mediaeval Cambridge to say whether the utter squalor the masters and students are shown by Gregory to live in is authentic or exaggerated.  Gluttonous and scheming Brother Michael provides a much-needed foil to the rather colorless Bartholomew and the tale could certainly stand some editing but otherwise the series seems to be back on track and is certainly very entertaining.

Reviews of other titles in this series

A Masterly Murder, No 6     [review]
The Hand of Justice, No 10     [review]
The Mark of a Murderer, No 11     [review]
The Tarnished Chalice, No 12     [review]
To Kill or Cure, No 13     [review]
The Devil’s Disciples, No 14     [review]
A Vein of Deceit, No 15     [review]
The Killer of Pilgrims, No 16     [review]
Mystery in the Minster, No 17     [review]
Murder By The Book, No 18    [review]


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