Mel Starr continues his delightfully charming Hugh de Singleton series with Ashes to Ashes.
The morning after the festivities of Midsummer's Eve, the villagers of Bampton make a grisly discovery
Master Hugh, Kate, and their children attend the Midsummer’s Eve fire. The next morning Hugh hears the passing bell ring from the Church of St. Beornwald, and moments later is summoned. Tenants collecting the ashes to spread upon their fields have found burned bones.
Master Hugh learns of several men of Bampton and nearby villages who have gone missing recently. Most are soon found, some alive, some dead. Master Hugh eventually learns that the bones are those of a bailiff from a nearby manor. Someone has slain him and placed his body in the fire to destroy evidence of murder.
Bailiffs are not popular men; they dictate labor service, collect rents, and enforce other obligations. Has this bailiff died at the hand of some angry tenant? Hugh soon discovers this is not the case. There is quite another reason for murder . . .
In Ashes to Ashes, Hugh de Singleton, bailiff to Lord Gilbert, is called upon to investigate a mysterious death. Though the death at first seems fairly straightforward, Hugh soon learns that there's more to the story, and he seeks to uncover a murderer. Along the way, he faces danger himself—and he finds several opportunities to use his skills as a surgeon.
The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton are unique novels—I don't know of any other inspirational novels set in the Middle Ages that feature a male protagonist. It's such an interesting perspective, one that I love returning to time and again. I find Master Hugh to be such a likeable and compelling character. Ashes to Ashes is written as though it's Hugh's journal, and I love his asides, as well as the foreshadowing. I also love the descriptions of the medical procedures he performs. While Ashes to Ashes isn't a high-stakes novel (one never doubts that Hugh will be fine, and his family is never in any danger), it does feature an intriguing mystery that keeps the pages rapidly turning. 4 stars.
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Read my reviews of other Mel Starr novels.
Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”