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The Mystery in the minster is the latest novel by Susanna Gregory which features the 13th century Doctor Matthew Bartholomhew. Matthew is an intelligent Cambridge don who is a doctor, he has been trained by Moorish medical men and has practices which some consider heretical such as washing his hands and examining corpses. He has been investigating the murder mysteries in and around Cambridge for a few years with his close friend the monk Michael, in this novel however a group of Cambridge dons travel to York to sort out a beneficiary from a powerful bishops will.
This tool of removing Matthew and Michael from Cambridge to York focuses the book on the antics of only Matthew, Michael and the other Cambridge dons on the trip. They have travelled to York to claim a church legacy left to them by the deceased arch-bishop of York. As soon as they arrive at the city they are shot at by a bow and arrow and one of the people who met them at the gate is seriously wounded. From this point we have an investigation into the precise nature of the legacy and the whereabouts of the will and the attack on the group. When one of the group is murdered by poison we start a murder mystery and the antics of the leading citizens of York are examined.
As with all Susanna Gregory novels the background is rigorously examined and we have in the novel real York people, so we meet the dean of the minster, the city mayor and other prominent York people. They all interact with the group and the story soon devolves into the murder mystery and the fates of the original will of course the fact that the murdered man had ingested something from something he'd been given by someone he trusted only expands the intrigues. The book does move along at a decent pace, we have arrow attacks, poisoning, an attack on Matthew, Michael is attacked and finally all the group are locked in a flooding cellar. The book is set during a York on the point of flooding and there is a general sense of speed and rushing around not normally found in Susanna Gregory novels but used here to give a sense of a group from a distant city trying to understand what's happening to them in a foreign city.
The Matthew books have settled into a now traditional pattern, Matthew thinks about the crimes and Michael rushes in but by the end they come to the conclusion on who killed who and why. There is always a confession or the miscreant conveniently does something revealing his guilt, and it's the same here. The final two chapters bring all the stories to a climax, reveal why and then leave Matthew to muse on the profligacy of human nature. We are then given a short final "in real life" chapter where what happened to the real characters is given and if any event is mentioned in the city charters. This was and is an enjoyable novel, if you've read one of her novels then you know what to expect and in some ways her more modern books set in the 17th century reveal a more exciting or challenging writing style but the murders always have reasonable reasons and the solving is always believable. The books always give a feel for 14th century life and we get a peek at how life was all those years ago, all be it life lived by the more affluent members of society.