Monday, December 30, 2013

"Rest Not in Peace The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon #6" by Mel Starr

About the book:   Another slice of medieval skullduggery from the surgeon-turned-sleuth

Master Hugh, surgeon and bailiff, is asked to provide a sleeping potion for Sir Henry Burley, a friend and guest of Lord Gilbert at Bampton Castle. Sir Henry—with his current wife, a daughter by a first wife, two knights, two squires, and assorted servants—has outstayed his welcome at Bampton.

The next morning, Sir Henry is found dead, eyes open, in his bed. Master Hugh, despite shrill accusations from the grieving widow, is asked by Lord Gilbert to determine the cause of death . . . which had nothing to do with the potion.

My thoughts:  The historical setting of Rest Not in Peace is medieval England in the year 1368.  I previously read and reviewed The Tainted Coin and found Mel Starr's writing style refreshing, development of the characters interesting, educational to behavior of characters of the historical period believable, and felt very comfortable that scenes, behavior, personalities, medical practices, etc. described in the book true to the period. I base this assumption on the educational background and teaching experience of the author as well as his studies of medieval medical practices. So often historical reads are romances and filled with the give and take of the male and female protagonists.  However, in Mel Starr's The Tainted Coin and Rest Not in Peace, I discovered Master Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon and found him a character of many fine points that the author develops quite well and the books are absolutely clean reads.

The story is written first-person with the voice of Singleton.  He is the bailiff for the Lord's estate as well as a surgeon.  Author Mel Starr is a historian by education and trade and has thoroughly researched this period novel.  Included in the front of the book are words and terms to help understand the terminology of the period such as foods, pieces of clothing, and names of objects.  But you don't feel as though you are reading a history book.  

In Rest Not In Peace, Hugh de Singleton is called to the castle as the bailiff to investigate the death of a guest of Lord Gilbert. I especially enjoy the sentence structure utilized by the author that captures the mode of speech indicative of the 1360s England. True it is not "old English," but it does set the tone for a period difference. In the process of discovery and investigation, station in life in medieval England again allows that the gentry are afforded more leeway than the common man. Social order and the privilege of rank that existed and played a role in meeting out justice for those who broke the laws.

Singleton's contemplations are interesting and often take place on his way home as he crosses Shill Brook where he subtly draws analogies between the brook's water flow and the situation he is investigating. This is also a spot where he seems to calm his senses and "cleanse" himself mentally, emotionally, and perhaps even spiritually.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Rest Not in Peace from Kregel Publications on behalf of Monarch Books and the author for the purpose of my honest review. I was under no obligation to provide favorable comments. Opinions expressed are solely my own. 

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