Thursday, January 24, 2013

"the tainted coin" by mel starr

About the book (from the publisher): It is the autumn of 1367. Master Hugh is enjoying the peaceful life of Bampton when a badly beaten man is found under the porch of St. Andrew's Chapel. The dying man is a chapman—a traveling merchant. Before he is buried in the chapel grounds, an ancient, corroded coin is found in the man's mouth.

Master Hugh's quest for the chapman's assailants, and his search for the origin of the coin, begins to make progress—but there are men of wealth and power in league with his old nemesis, Sir Simon Trillowe, who wish to end his search . . . permanently.

But Master Hugh and his assistant, the groom Arthur, are determined to uncover the thieves and murderers, and the source of the chapman's coin. They do, but not before they become involved with a kidnapped maiden, a tyrannical abbot, and a suffering monk—who needs Master Hugh's surgical skills and in return provides clues that assist Hugh in solving the mystery of the tainted coin.

My take: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Mel Starr's Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton are a joy to read! The Tainted Coin picks up approximately a year after the events in Unhallowed Ground. Hugh, his wife Kate, and their daughter are enjoying a peaceful existence until murder and mayhem once again cross Hugh's path.

I love the way Starr writes these chronicles—as though Hugh is writing in his journal. This allows him to throw in humorous asides and foreshadowing as one would tend to do in a real journal. One of my favorite lines in the whole book is from the first page, and it gives a glimpse into the dry humor present throughout the book: "Children are a blessing from God, but not when they awaken before dawn and demand to be fed."

As I read, I was especially delighted to find that Sir Simon Trillowe would once again be involved in the plot. Sir Simon is a loathsome man, and each time he is mentioned, Hugh can't help but reference Simon's sadly misshapen ear, adding a welcome bit of levity to the story.

And it wouldn't be a Hugh de Singleton novel without a gruesome description of a medieval surgical procedure ... something I look forward to and yet cringe at when I'm reading about it! (In this case, it involved a facial fistula. A Google image search will quickly fill you in if you don't know what that is.)

While The Tainted Coin is the fifth book in this series, you could easily pick it up without having read any of the previous novels. It provides an informative glimpse into the 14th century while entertaining the reader with a thoroughly enjoyable mystery. 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.

Read an excerpt.
See what other bloggers are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of books three and four: A Trail of Ink and Unhallowed Ground.

About the author: 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.”

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