The Abbot’s Agreement, by Mel Starr, is book #6 in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon. I have review a couple of them and loved all 6 of them. I was unsure if I wanted to review another as I didn’t want to just repeat myself about the series, but as I was reading the book I was once again struck by how much fun this book was to read. The quirks of some of the characters and even Hugh himself are so interesting to read. To be able to experience life in the 14th century is a delight.
Mel makes the characters and their experiences come to life. How the pestilence –black plague – wiped out families and sometimes entire communities. They lived in terror of if and when it would enter their communities. It was part of life and nothing they could do anything about. I have no experience with such a disease or anything that would just wipe out everyone I knew. Mel weaves that into his stories, each and every person has lost family and friends to the pestilence and each understands when someone brings it up. The work force is smaller because of it. People have been able to purchase more land as landowners and churches lost money because of the loss to this tragedy. I never thought of how much it would affect. It made the story much more intriguing.
Master Hugh is on the way to Oxford to purchase a Bible. He has longed for one for some time now and has finally the coin and time to get one. His wife is expecting their second child soon and he wants to be back in time for this event. While on the way he is distracted by a flock of birds alongside the road and goes to investigate, what he finds is the body of a missing novice from the local Abbey. He is soon hired by the Abbot to figure out who killed young John and why. His wages for doing so? A new and complete Bible. More than ample reward for his services.
As the clues start coming together, Hugh and groom Arthur find themselves at risk and the murderer would do just about anything to keep his secret. Is it the younger son of the local land owner? Is it a different suitor for beautiful young Maude’s hand? When John’s father asks Hugh if he had any in mind that would kill his son, Hugh responds with “Several.” It is what makes the mystery so fun to read in these books. It is all testimony and word of mouth. No surprise DNA results to help you along the way. No find a small drop of blood on the dagger that is tested to show you whose blood is on the dagger. It is all just listening for the clues and trying to figure it out yourself. Mel does a good job of pointing you in a certain direction and then changing your mind. I love that part of the work, no CSI to come in and tell you the answer in the end, just good old fashion leg work.