Monday, February 2, 2015

The Abbot's Agreement by Mel Starr

The Abbot's Agreement is the seventh in a series chronicling the adventures of medieval bailiff and surgeon, Hugh de Singleton.  Each book can stand alone but once you begin reading about Hugh, you'll want to go back and catch up on earlier ones in the series.

This is my third Mel Starr book I've read and I cannot say enough good about them. First of all they are clean--a rather rare find these days.  They are a great glimpse into medieval life, presented in a conversational way as the character goes about his day.  I love the internal dialogue the reader listens to as Hugh puzzles his way through events. He very often has a witty comment that he has the good grace to keep to himself (and the reader).  He has a great sidekick in Arthur--the man who provides some physical security when interviewing rougher characters. They work perfectly together.

Hugh seems like a regular guy--just doing his best to make a living and provide for his growing family. The reader is a silent partner in his sleuthing efforts. In this particular book, Hugh and Arthur are on their way to a nearby town to purchase a Bible (or at least a New Testament if the price is too dear).  Hugh is anxious to complete his errand and return home as his wife will deliver a baby soon. But Providence has a way of putting detours in Hugh's path.

An assembly of buzzards catches Hugh's attention and instead of the animal carcass they expect to find, they are greeted by the remains of a novice. Feeling duty bound to notify the nearby abby, Arthur is dispatched to notify and bring back the abbot or prior.  The body is then take to the abby and the abbot asks Hugh to find the murderer in exchange for a Bible that the brothers at the abby will complete for him.  Hugh requests a woman to stay with his wife and with the abbot's agreement, Hugh accepts the challenge.

As Hugh and Arthur remain guests at the abby, all is not as it seems and it becomes clear that the slain man was not particularly happy as a novice and had intended to leave.  Hugh uncovers several with motive but few clues to go on. As some of Hugh's own theology clashes with some at the abby, his task becomes even harder.  While getting to the bottom of one crime, Hugh stumbles on others.

Starr infuses the story with historical and religious details of the time that create a satisfying and authentic tale for the reader. Very highly recommended!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Abbot's Agreement from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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