Susanna Gregory 2010: Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles #1
I had high hopes for this series – a nice meaty mystery series set an era that fascinates me.
Matthew Bartholomew is a physician at medieval Cambridge. He is viewed as unorthodox, apparently because he refuses to bleed his patients, and he prefers treating the poor over the rich. He is of high moral fibre. However, based on this first book in which scholars and priests are dying under mysterious circumstances (and also from the Black Death, which is sweeping through the area), he is not a particularly good detective.
Amidst the poisonings, stabbings, and drownings of his colleagues, Matthew is subject to traps, potential ambushes, and misdirections through fake messages to get him out of the way – really out of the way. He stumbles his way through them but doesn’t really solve anything. He’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets caught by the killers, who then tell him – and the reader – the entire story. There is one clever plot twist that I found entertaining Overall though, the plot was so convoluted that I didn’t care who the killer(s) were. I just wanted it to be done, and the last few escapades could have been condensed into one concluding chapter with no loss of momentum.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed the print version more. The narrator of the audiobook, whose tone and pace were both somewhat staccato, may as well been reading a BBC news report, and I can’t discount this as a reason for my less than wonderful experience. This actually felt like 2.5 stars, but I’m adding a star based on the possibility of the narration souring the story. The author is to be applauded for writing a medieval mystery that reads like a contemporary novel.