Mystery in the Minster by Susanna Gregory
Susanna Gregory opens her latest Matthew Bartholomew mystery at the deathbed of Archbishop Zouche in July 1352. He is commending his soul to God and his affairs to nine executors who are commissioned both to say obits to lessen his time in Purgatory and build a Chapel for him. Scamper forward nearly six years and we meet a new Michaelhouse tutor. John Radeforde is a lawyer whose opportune position ensures he joins Michael, Langelee, Bartholomew, and Cynric who all go to York when the Master of Michaelhouse enters the common room waving a letter to claim the parish and Church at Huntingdon. The incumbent priest, Cotyngham, is incapacitated, presumed witless and this has triggered the clause in the Will of the six-year deceased Archbishop Zouche.
After a journey north our Cambridge fellowship meet the vicars-choral of York Minster – represented by Sub-Chanter Ellis and his two assistants, the “henchman” Cave and “pretty” Jafford – who dispute the codicil that grants the Michaelhouse scholars the rights to Huntingdon, demanding they produce it and hiring the odious Carmelite lawyer, Dalfeld to represent them. Fairly swiftly both sides square up, each claiming to have supporters who “heard” about Zouche’s real wishes. It means that by chapter Two Matthew narrowly escapes a chicken-fletched arrow that severely wounds Sir William Longton, brother to his more unsavoury brother John, the mayor who is obsessed (like Langelee) with French spies and besting the merchants headed by Gisbyrn.
Gregory has taken us from Cambridge to York and given us a host of new characters to understand. Two plots run through the novel – the first to gain the codicil and thus Huntingdon, the other to locate the French spies. All of this against teeming rain that threatens to flood the city. Against this backdrop we have the nine executors. Neville, Christopher Malore, Welton, Stiendby, Playce, are dead of odd ‘debilities’ such as “spotted liver” before the action of the novel. Two others: Ferriby and Roger Zouche die mid-novel, leaving only Marmaduke – a defrocked priest - still alive with Anketil Malore. The new Archbishop, Thoresby suspects foul murder is afoot and tasks Michaelhouse with finding the codicil, locating the spies, the truth behind both Cotyngham’s incapacitation, the disappearance of Zouche’s money, and whomever loosed an arrow at William Longton from the decrepit church of St Mary Valveas, little more than a plague pit now.
Not much for Matthew and Michael to sort out, then. They only wanted to claim an inheritance.
The host of characters also feature Outstwyk – a self-admitted gossip; the Benedictine alien house of Holy Trinity lead by Chozaico who is accused of harbouring French spies; the “perpetually suing everyone” Carmelite Order; Prioress Alice; the pious (yet of dubious intellectual ability) Isabella, who is obsessed with putting on a play about ‘The Conversion of a Harlot’; Zouche’s niece, Lady Helen – courted by Frost, who is a client of Gisbyrn the merchant who put the now-dead merchant Myton out of business; the Librarian Talerand who exasperates everyone with his unkempt charge; and last, but by no means least, Surgeon Fournays who Matthew quite seems to like. There are others who provide the glue to this nefarious mire of matters secular and episcopal and the author’s command of an array of characters and action is breath-taking at times.
It would take far too long to go through the action and the enjoyment of readers should not be spoiled by revealing what happens. Suffice it to say that we start on what seems an innocuous trip to York where “the notion of a brothel-crawl under the guidance of the Master was an activity none of them had anticipated as being on offer” and end up in a city that is flooding both metaphorically and literally with the medieval warring factions of priests and townsfolk coming to a head. Alliances and allegiances are formed, split, and reformed as Matthew tries to understand those who are mendacious, those who are noble; those who seek personal gain, those who represent a faction. Several deaths occur throughout the novel and Gregory unveils effortlessly her skill at having multiple motives and threads entwining. What makes Gregory so readable is that, after so many novels, a reader – who could reasonably expect to gain a familiarity with the author’s plot method – is still confused and surprised at the convoluted twists and turns. What is in plain sight may or may not be true. What is hidden is never quite as it seems.
In this latest novel revenge is dish best served with poison. It is a feast that is started by an innocuous death years ago where those who are left behind fight over a legacy and the best intentions of a kindly man are destroyed by those whose avarice consumes them.
As brilliant as ever, Susanna Gregory. Keep writing for as long as you can.
This Mystery in the Minster book review was written by travelswithacanadian
All reviews for: The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew
Mystery in the Minster
The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew #17
In 1358 the fledging college of Michaelhouse in Cambridge is in need of extra funds. A legacy from the Archbishop of York of a parish close to that city promises a welcome ...
Murder by the Book
The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew #18
It is drawing near to the end of term, and the University at Cambridge is in turmoil over the opening of a new Common Library. There is an attack on one of the masters at a...
The Lost Abbot
The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew #19
In the summer of 1358 Matthew Bartholomew finds himself one of a party of Bishop's Commissioners, sent north to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the Abbot of...
Death of a Scholar
The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew #20
In the summer of 1358 the physician Matthew Bartholomew returns to Cambridge to learn that his beloved sister is in mourning after the unexpected death of her husband, Oswa...
A Poisonous Plot
The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew #21
In 1358, over a century after its foundation in Cambridge, the college of Michaelhouse is facing a serious shortfall of funds and competition from upstarts rivals such as Z...
A Grave Concern
The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew #22
Identifying the murderer of the Chancellor of the University is not the only challenge facing physician Matthew Bartholomew. Many of his patients have been made worse by th...
Have you read Mystery in the Minster?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Mystery in the Minster reader reviews
9.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have me...
Andersonville by Edward M Erdelac
Edward M Erdelac
Georgia, 1864. Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville, has earned a reputation as an open sewer of sadistic cruelty and terror where death may come at any minute. But as the Union ...
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
Mario de Carvalho
In the 3rd century AD, Lucerius Valerius Quincius, perfect of Tarcisis, an imaginary Roman City, begins his memoirs. His city is threatened from without and within. North A...
The King of Scotland is dead. The nobles fight over the succession, unaware that King Edward of England has plans of his own. For years, Edward has nurtured a fierce vision...
Summer, 1546. King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors are engaged in a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will cont...
The Language of Stones
The Realm is poised for war. Its weak king – Hal, grandson of a usurper – is dominated by his beautiful wife and her lover. Against them stands Duke Richard of ...
The Eagle Series
It is 42 AD, and Quintus Licinius Cato has just arrived in Germany as a new recruit to the Second Legion, the toughest in the Roman army. If adjusting to the rigours of mil...
A Gladiator Dies Only Once
Gordianus the Finder, famed detective of Ancient Rome, returns in a riveting of stories. Nine tales of murder and intrigue take him from the seamy streets of Rome to elegan...
Orphaned by Rome's savage legions, Thea, a slave girl from Judaea, has learned what it takes to survive. She knows only violence until a chance meeting with gladiator A...
The Crown in the Heather
N Gemini Sasson
In 1290, Scotland is without a king. Two families - the Bruces and the Balliols - vie for the throne.Robert the Bruce is in love with Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter of an adh...
At the dawn of the Roman Empire, when tyranny ruled, a daughter of Egypt and a son of Rome found each other... Selene's parents are gone, her country has been taken fro...
Walls of Jericho
1808. As Napoleon’s conscript armies smash their way across Europe, a small British expeditionary force lands on the coast of Portugal. Its mission: to support Portug...
Havens of Pompeii
After spending seven fruitless years training as a gladiator, Valerus Claudius Cascus returns from Rome to his hometown of Herculaneum. Upon his arrival, he delivers his fa...
In 1037, a senior civil servant of the Byzantine empire faces a tedious journey to Greece, escorting the Army payroll. His only companions are a detachment of the Empire...
Rome is burning. Only one man can save it. The Emperor: Nero, Emperor of Rome and all her provinces, feared by his subjects for his temper and cruelty, is in possession of ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: