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Murder by the Book - Susanna Gregory

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Susanna Gregory / Hardcover / Publication Date: 2012 / Publisher: Sphere

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      12.07.2012 16:37
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      A decent effort but she's written better

      Murder by the book is the latest book by Susanna Gregory featuring the crime solving pair of Matthew Bartholomew (MB) and Brother Michael. They are members of Michael house, a college of Cambridge university in the 14th century. Matthew is a physician with for the 14th century progressive views such as washing ones hands and treating patients based on the symptoms rather than drawing a horoscope, he is also an ex-military doctor and has experience of England's campaigns against France during the 100 year's war. This book begins with the battle of Poitiers where the French are soundly defeated and the French king captured, one the French noblemen vows revenge and the book immediately jumps to Cambridge five years later.

      Matthew and Michael are trying to get over the latest bout of plague and hoping for a quiet time to rebuild the university and town, however, they are soon asked to investigate the deaths of 4 men found in a pond. The pond is in a house which is being converted into the universities first communal library but the establishment of which has split the academic ranks. Soon the investigation centres on the conversion of the house, the founding of the library and the actions of a group of men who seem to appear when night has fallen and are believed to be behind a series of attacks.

      As always with the Matthew Bartholomew novels we start with one murder and soon encounter more killings, the deaths are associated with the library and it appears that the building of the library has sparked some kind of revenge attack.

      This is the latest novel featuring the pair and by now the novels are well established, we have the liberal more modern person in Matthew and the traditionalist Michael, the pair are friends but often clash over the need for progression and change. Alongside a town which always appears to be on the edge of disorder or chaos, the university seems to be full of unpleasant disparate characters and with each novel we encounter a fresh set of Fellows, lecturers and students. We also visit new colleges and hostels giving us a chance to encounter academics with very different thoughts and beliefs from Matthews.

      I've read most of the MB books and this was one of the weakest in my opinion, the storyline felt forced and a little jazzed up to put it into the holiday reading list, it has lots of blood, gore, death and destruction. The culprit for the murders was well inexplicable, the reason completely unlikely and to be honest plain silly. So we have a 450 page novel in which the ending was ridiculous, but getting there was fun and interesting but by the end I was struggling to really enjoy the novel.

      Susanna Gregory's novels are usually well-structured and believable if a little unlikely, she has stretched her wings into a 17th century James Bond style spy called Challoner and they are high action and less intrigue. Here we have a clear MB book in the Challoner style, and in my opinion it doesn't fit in with the other MB novels. Matthew is supposed to be a thoughtful forward thinking physician who solves crimes through intelligence and observation but in this novel he appeared to be using his fists and dagger more than his intellect.

      So a disappointment compared with her other novels but still enjoyable when compared with some of the other historical murder mystery novels which are available.

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