Susanna Gregory is a pseudonym. Before gaining her PhD at the University of Cambridge, she was a police officer in Yorkshire. She has written a number of non-fiction books on architecture and travel as well as the chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew and Thomas Chaloner.
"I wrote the first Bartholomew book so long ago now that it’s hard to remember what prompted me to pick the mid-fourteenth century. However, I’ve always loved medieval history, and I think I just chose a time where a lot was happening. There were the wars with the French, and then along came the Black Death. It must have been a terrifying time, and it’s almost impossible to imagine what people must have felt about it. The early 1660s were much the same. The country had just endured two decades of internal turmoil, where first one side and then the other had the upper hand. No one really knew who was going to win or what was going to happen next, and the uncertainty must have been deeply unsettling. Both were periods of tremendous instability and change. I think that’s what attracted me to them."
Susanna Gregory, interviewed by Charlotte Betts, when asked what made her choose the medieval and then the mid-seventeenth century periods for her murder mystery novels
Susanna Gregory books reviewed
Mystery in the Minster
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
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
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
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
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
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...
A Conspiracy of Violence
The dour days of Cromwell are over. Charles II is well established at White Hall Palace, his mistress at hand in rooms over the Holbein bridge, the heads of some of the reg...
The Cheapside Corpse
London in the spring of 1665 is a city full of fear. There is plague in the stews of St Giles, the Dutch fleet is preparing to invade, and a banking crisis threatens to lea...
The Chelsea Strangler
In the sapping summer heat of 1665 there is little celebration in London of the naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft. The King, his retinue and anyone with sufficient m...
The Piccadilly Plot
Thomas Chaloner is relieved to be summoned back to London. His master, the Earl of Clarendon, has sent him to Tangier to investigate a case of corruption. Chaloner will be ...
Death in St James's Park
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart lad...
Murder on High Holborn
In 1665 England is facing war with the Dutch and the capital is awash with rumours of conspiracy and sedition. These are more frenetic than normal because of the recent sin...
Matthew Bartholomew series
- A Plague on Both Your Houses
In the tradition of Ellis Peters, A Plague on Both Your Houses introduces the physician Matthew Bartholomew, whose unorthodox but effective treatment of his patients frequently draws accusations of heresy from his more traditional colleagues. Besides his practice, Bartholomew is teacher of Medicine at Michaelhouse, part of the fledgling University of Cambridge. In 1348, the inhabitants of Cambridge live under the shadow of a terrible pestilence that has ravaged Europe and is travelling relentlessly eastward towards England. Bartholomew, however, is distracted by the sudden and inexplicable death of the Master of Michaelhouse - a death the University authorities do not want investigated. When three more scholars die in mysterious circumstances, Bartholomew defies the University and begins his own enquiry. His pursuit for the truth leads him into a complex tangle of lies and intrigue that causes him to question the innocence of his closest friends, and even his family. And then the Black Death finally arrives and Bartholomew is dragged deeper and deeper into a quagmire which threatens not only his life, but the continued existence of the University and the future of the town.
- An Unholy Alliance
In 1350 the people of Cambridge are struggling to overcome the effects of the Black Death. Bands of outlaws roam the land and the high death rate among priests and monks has left the people vulnerable to sinister cults that have grown up in the wake of the plague. At Michaelhouse Matthew Bartholomew is training new physicians to replace those who died of the pestilence. When the body of a friar is found in the massive chest where the University stores its most precious documents, Bartholomew is dragged away from his teaching to investigate. But the friar's is not the only unexplained death in town. Almost by chance Bartholomew stumbles across a derelict church, abandoned since its congregation were decimated by the plague. It is now the meeting place for a mysterious sect which holds its followers in terror, and which Bartholomew believes to be at the very heart of an astonishing web of blackmail and deceit aimed to overthrow the established religion.
- A Bone of Contention
Cambridge, 1392. Matthew Bartholomew, physician to Michaelhouse College, is called to examine some mysterious bones found in the King's Ditch. Next day he is called to the Ditch again: a student has been found dead there. Meanwhile, there is unrest in the town, and the strange disappearance of Dominica, former lover of the dead student and daughter of Waterstone, the well-known Principal of a Cambridge student hostel. Are these events connected? Then a skeletal hand is found in the Ditch, hailed by townsfolk as the final remains of local martyr Simon d'Ambrey, and hence a holy relic. When Bartholomew finds that the hand is wearing a ring apparently identical to a pair that were worn by Dominica and her ex-lover, and now missing, he knows that his investigative skills are called for.
- A Deadly Brew
The opening of a new and very well-endowed college has created petty in-fighting amongst the academics as new appointments are made. The winter and spring have been appallingly wet, there is a fever outbreak amongst the poorer townspeople and the country is not yet fully recovered from the aftermath of the plague. The increasing reputation and wealth of the Cambridge colleges are causing dangerous tensions between the town, Church and University and then the poisoned wine kills the first victim - a student. The second victim is Dittone, the deputy master of the new college, but there seems no connection between him and the student. Matthew must establish the facts before relations between town and gown spiral out of control.
- A Wicked Deed
Matthew Bartholomew, doctor of medicine and fellow of Michaelhouse, Cambridge, is travelling with a party from the college to accept the gift of the living of a parish in Suffolk. One of his companions, Unwin, an unworldly scholar, is to be installed as priest. Their journey is not without incident - they are chased by footpads, pass through an eerie village abandoned after the recent plague and find a man barely alive on a gibbet - so they reach their destination with some relief. But their thoughts of recovering while enjoying the local Pentecostal Fair are soon curtailed, as they are immediately thrust into the machinations of local boundary disputes between three landowners. Then all such squabbles seem mere trivia when Unwin is murdered in the very church which was to have been his home. While trying to investigate a possible motive for his killing, Bartholomew discovers that his is not the first unnatural death in the village - deaths which everyone has put down to the curse of the plague dead village. He is of too practical a mind to believe the superstitions, but is he wily enough to work out the real motive behind the murders and who will gain from them?
- A Masterly Murder
Michaelhouse is in uproar: Kenyngham the saintly but ageing Master has announced his retirement and with unseemly haste Runham arranges his own 'election' as his successor. Within days he has dismissed several members of staff, including the redoubtable laundress Agatha, and is making life so unpleasant for the scholars that even Matthew Bartholomew believes his future as physician and teacher at the college is untenable. But Matthew has many patients to divert his attention and Brother Michael, Proctor of the fledgling university, has some suspicious deaths to investigate, although they cannot help but notice that the new Master has commissioned a flurry of building work. Then Runham himself is murdered and, although mourned by none, Matthew and Michael know they have to solve the mystery before any more damage is done to their beloved Michaelhouse.
- An Order for Death
Believers in the theory of nominalism have set some Cambridge colleges at the throats of those who believe them to be heretics and Michael, the Senior Proctor, has his work cut out to keep the peace. When a nominalist is murdered during a riot Michael is certain he will easily find the killer amongst the Dominicans, but before he can get any sense out of them his junior proctor, Walcote, is found hanged and he discovers that his trusted ally had arranged secret meetings at the St Ragelund Convent between men who would not normally be seen together - and the nuns of St Ragelund are renowned for behaviour entirely inappropriate to their calling. Meanwhile Matthew Bartholomew learns that Michael, his lifelong friend, is in all probability the thief who relieved one of the anti-nominalist colleges of some of their most precious papers. If that charge were proved it would put paid to Michael's long term plans to become Master of Michaelhouse - but would he kill to protect himself? Unable to believe his colleague would be capable of such acts, Bartholomew knows the only way he can quiet his own conscience is to solve the murders himself.
- A Summer of Discontent
Matthew Bartholomew jumps at the chance to travel to Ely with Brother Michael, as it will give him a unique opportunity to study in the richly stocked library of the Benedictine priory. Michael has been summoned to the city by his bishop, but it isn't until they arrive that they discover the reason - the bishop has been accused of murder. The charge seems ludicrous, but Michael takes the investigation seriously and energetically sets about his task. Almost immediately he discovers that there appears to have been a series of unexplained deaths in the area. At the same time Bartholomew comes across an underground movement of rebellion against the church and the tithes they demand from the laity, and the two men also learn that there has been a spate of burglaries which are being blamed on a band of travellers. Then a fellow of the priory is murdered almost under their noses. Can this death be connected to the others? Are all the killings linked to the burgeoning rebellion in the city?
- A Killer in Winter
Cambridge 1354. Christmas approaches and the town is gripped by the worst blizzards in living memory. As the physician, Matthew Bartholomew, struggles to help the poorer citizens cope with freezing temperatures, his colleagues prepare for the festivities. The weather has trapped many travellers in the town, including Matthew's erstwhile love, Philippa. She and her wealthy husband are invited to Michaelhouse for the main feast, and Matthew is horrified that he does not immediately recognise the over-weight, sulky woman who once stole his heart. In some ways he is relieved to accept Brother Michael's orders to identify a man found dead, apparently from exposure, in a nearby church, but the success of his mission brings him closer to Philippa's circle, for the man was her husband's servant. And then the husband himself is dead, victim of an accident on the treacherous ice of the fens - or was it a more sinister death, somehow linked to the death of one of his business rivals months earlier in London?
- The Hand of Justice
In Cambridge 1355 the colleges of the fledgling university are as much at odds with each other as they are with the ordinary townsfolk. This tension has recently been heightened by the return of two well-born murderers after receiving the King’s pardon, showing no remorse but ready to confront those who helped convict them. And in the midst of this Bartholomew the physician is called to the local mill to examine two corpses. It is almost a relief to be able to turn his back on the fractious town, but as always in Cambridge nothing is disconnected.
- The Mark of a Murderer
On St Scholastica’s Day in February 1355, Oxford explodes in one of the most serious riots of its turbulent history. Fearing for their lives, the scholars flee the city, and some choose the University at Cambridge as their temporary refuge. However, they don’t remain safe for long. Within hours of their arrival, the first of their number dies, followed quickly by a second.When Bartholomew and Brother Michael begin to investigate the deaths, they uncover evidence that the Oxford riot was not a case of random violence, but part of a carefully orchestrated plot. With the Archbishop of Canterbury about to honour Cambridge with a Visitation, and a close colleague accused of a series of murders Bartholomew is certain he didn’t commit, the race is on to solve the riddles and bring a ruthless killer to justice.
- The Tarnished Chalice
On a bitter winter evening in 1356, Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael arrive in Lincoln - Michael to accept an honour from the cathedral, and Bartholomew to look for the woman he wants to marry. It is not long before they learn that the friary in which they are staying is not the safe haven they imagine - one guest has already been murdered. It soon emerges that the dead man was holding the Hugh Chalice, a Lincoln relic with a curiously bloody history. Bartholomew and Michael are soon drawn into a web of murder, lies and suspicion in a city where neither knows who can be trusted.
- To Kill or Cure
Cambridge University is in dire financial straits: the town's landlords are demanding an extortionate rent rise for the students' hostels and the plague years have left the colleges with scant resources. Tension between town and gown is at boiling point and soon explodes into violence and death. Into this maelstrom comes a charismatic physician whose healing methods owe more to magic than medicine but his success threatens Matthew Bartholomew's professional reputation, and his life…
- The Devil's Disciples
Rumours of plague threaten Cambridge again, ten years after the Black Death had almost laid waste to the town. Neither the church nor its priests had defended people from the disease and now they turn elsewhere for protection, to pagan ritual and magical potions. It is a ripe atmosphere to be exploited by the mysterious 'Sorcerer', an anonymous magician whose increasing influence seems certain to oust both civil and church leaders from power. One murder, another unexplained death, a font filled with blood, a desecrated grave - all bear the hallmarks of the Sorcerer's hand, only the identity of the magician remains a mystery. A mystery which Matthew Bartholomew must solve before he loses his reputation... and his life.
- A Vein of Deceit
There is something very amiss in the finances of Michaelhouse. Despite a new influx of well-heeled students, there is an acute lack of funds for the upkeep of the buildings, even for decent provisions. It is only when the Brother in charge of the account books dies unexpectedly that some sort of explanation is revealed: he has been paying large amounts of money for goods the college itself has never received. Although shocked by this evidence of fraud, Matthew is more concerned with the disappearance from his herbarium of a quantity of pennyroyal, a preparation known to cause a woman to miscarry, and a pregnant visitor to his sister's household has died from an overdose of pennyroyal. Had she meant to abort her child or had someone else wanted to ensure she was unable to provide an heir to her husband's wealthy estates? When Matthew learns that it was her husband who had received Michaelhouse's money for undelivered goods he begins to search for other connections and exposes a very treacherous vein of deceit.
- The Killer of Pilgrims
When a wealthy benefactor is found dead in Michaelhouse, Brother Michael and Matthew Bartholomew must find the culprit before the College is accused of foul play. At the same time, Cambridge is plagued by a mystery thief, who is targeting rich pilgrims. Moreover, pranksters are at large in the University, staging a series of practical jokes that are growing increasingly dangerous, and that are dividing scholars into bitterly opposed factions. Bartholomew and Michael soon learn that their various mysteries are connected, and it becomes a race against time to catch the killer-thief before the University explodes into a violent conflict that could destroy it forever.
- Mystery in the Minster
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 source of income. However, there has been another claim to its ownership and it seems the only way to settle the dispute is for a deputation from Michaelhouse to travel north.Matthew Bartholomew is among the small party which arrives in the bustling city, where the increasing wealth of the merchants is unsettling the established order, and where a French invasion is an ever-present threat to its port. But soon he and his colleagues learn that several of the Archbishop's executors have died in unexplained circumstances and that the codicil naming Michaelhouse as a beneficiary cannot be found…
- Murder by the Book
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 meeting to discuss the matter, and a body is found floating in the pond in the library's garden on the eve of its opening. Meanwhile, there are rumours of a large force of dangerous smugglers lurking in the Fens. Aided by their friend Sheriff Tulyet, Bartholomew and Michael must thwart the invaders before the Feast of Corpus Christi the following week. To fail might mean the destruction of the town...
- The Lost Abbott (2013)
Matthew Bartholomew doesn't want to travel to Peterborough in the summer of 1358, but his friendship with the lovely Julitta Holm has caused a scandal in Cambridge, so he has no choice. He is one of a party of Bishop's Commissioners, charged to discover what happened to Peterborough's abbot, who went for a ride one day and has not been seen since. When the Commissioners arrive, they find the town in turmoil. A feisty rabble-rouser is encouraging the poor to rise up against their overlords, the abbey is at war with a powerful goldsmith and his army of mercenaries, and there are bitter rivalries between competing shrines. One shrine is dedicated to Lawrence de Oxforde, a vicious felon who was executed for his crimes, but who has been venerated after miracles started occurring at his grave. However, it is not long before murder rears its head, and its first victim is Joan, the woman in charge of Oxforde's tomb...
Thomas Chaloner series
- A Conspiracy of Violence
The dour days of Cromwell are over. Charles II is well established at White Hall Palace, his mistress at hand in rooms over the Holbein bridge, the heads of some of the regicides on public display. London seethes with new energy, freed from the strictures of the Protectorate, but many of its inhabitants have lost their livelihoods. One is Thomas Chaloner, a reluctant spy for the feared Secretary of State, John Thurloe, and now returned from Holland in desperate need of employment. His erstwhile boss, knowing he has many enemies at court, recommends Thomas to Lord Clarendon, but in return demands that Thomas keep him informed of any plot against him. But what Thomas discovers is that Thurloe had sent another ex-employee to White Hall and he is dead, supposedly murdered by footpads near the Thames. Chaloner volunteers to investigate his killing: instead he is despatched to the Tower to unearth the gold buried by the last Governor. He discovers not treasure, but evidence that greed and self-interest are uppermost in men's minds whoever is in power, and that his life has no value to either side.
- Blood On the Strand
Rebellion is in the air of London in the spring of 1663. Thomas Chaloner, spy for the King's intelligence service, has just returned from thwarting a planned revolt in Dublin, but soon realises that England's capital is no haven of peace. He is ordered to investigate the shooting of a beggar during a royal procession. He soon learns the man is no vagrant, but someone with links to the powerful Company of Barber-Surgeons. He master, the Earl of Clarendon, is locked in a deadly feud with the Earl of Bristol, and an innocent man is about to be hanged in Newgate. Chaloner is embroiled in a desperate race against time to protect Clarendon, to discover the true identity of the beggar's murderer, and to save a blameless man from the executioner's noose.
- The Butcher of Smithfield
Thomas Chaloner, just returned from a clandestine excursion to Spain and Portugal on behalf of the Queen, finds London dank and grey under leaden skies. He finds many things changed, including the Government slapping a tax on printed newspapers. Handwritten news reports escape the duty, and the rivalry between the producers of the two conduits of news is the talk of the coffee houses with the battle to be first with any sort of intelligence escalating into violent rivalry. And it seems that a number of citizens who have eaten cucumbers have come to untimely deaths. It is such a death which Chaloner is despatched to investigate; that of a lawyer with links to 'the Butcher of Smithfield', a shady trader surrounded by a fearsome gang of thugs who terrorise the streets well beyond the confines of Smithfield market. Chaloner doesn't believe that either this death or the others are caused by a simple vegetable, but to prove his theory he has to untangle the devious means of how news is gathered and he has to put his personal safety aside as he tries to penetrate the rumour mill surrounding the Butcher of Smithfield and discover his real identity.
- The Westminster Poisoner
Christopher Vine, a Treasury clerk working in solitary piety in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, is not alone. A killer waits in the draughty hall to ensure Vine will not live to see in the New Year. And Vine is not the only government official to die that season. The Lord Chancellor fears his enemies will skew any investigation to cause him maximum damage, so he decides to commission his own inquiries into the murders and, with his suspicions centred on Greene, another clerk, he instructs Thomas Chaloner to prove that Greene is the killer. Chaloner can prove otherwise, but unravelling the reasons behind his employer's suspicions is as complex as discovering the motives for the killings. His search for the real murderer plunges him into a stinking seam of corruption that leads towards the Royal apartments and to people determined to make Christmas 1663 Chaloner's last…
- A Murder on London Bridge
Thomas Chaloner has forged a living as spy to the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Clarendon, since the early days of the Restoration. Now, in February 1664, he is aware of an undercurrent of restlessness on the streets of London. The coffee houses are thick with rumours. There is anger at the new laws governing church attendance and a deepening contempt for the loucheness of the court. And there is murder.The infamous church-smasher Dick Culmer is killed among the tottering, ramshackle buildings of London Bridge and Chaloner's investigations into the death link Culmer to a group of puritan conspirators. Further west, in the opulence of Somerset House and in the Palace of White Hall, Chaloner gradually realises that the ring-leaders of a rebellion are planning an explosive climax to achieve their goals. Desperately racing against time, Chaloner is determined to thwart them – as determined as they are to prevent him revealing their true intentions…
- The Body in the Thames
In the dilapidated surroundings of the Savoy, a delegation from the government in the Netherlands is gathered in a last ditch attempt to secure peace between the two countries. Thomas Chaloner, active in Holland during Cromwell's time, is horrified at the violent aggression and hatred shown to the Dutch by ordinary Londoners, but is more worried by the dismissive attitude with which they are greeted by the King's ministers and officials. He has experienced the futilities of war at first hand and has no wish to witness another.Then the body of his former brother-in-law is found in the Thames, and Chaloner discovers the dead man has left enigmatic clues to a motivation for his murder. These may be linked to a plot to steal the crown jewels, or perhaps to a conspiracy to ensure that no peace is secured between the two nations. Whichever it proves to be, Chaloner knows he has very little time to decipher the pointers left to him…
- The Piccadilly Plot
Thomas Chaloner is relieved to be summoned back to London. His master, the Earl of Clarendon, has sent him to Tangier to investigate a case of corruption. Chaloner will be glad to be home, to be reunited with his new wife, but the trivial reason for his recall exasperates him - the theft of material from the construction site of Clarendon's embarrassingly sumptuous new house just north of Piccadilly. Within hours of his return, Chaloner considers these thefts even more paltry as he is thrust into extra investigations involving threats of assassination, a stolen corpse and a scheme to frame the Queen for treason. Yet there are connections from them all which thread through the unfinished Clarendon House...
- Death in St James's Park (2013)
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart laden with gunpowder explodes outside the General Letter Office, it is immediately clear that such an act is more than an expression of outrage at the inefficiency of the postal service. As intelligencer to the Lord Chamberlain, Thomas Chaloner cannot understand why a man of known incompetence is put in charge of investigating the attack while he is diverted to make enquiries about the poisoning of birds in the King's aviary in St James's Park. Then human rather than avian victims are poisoned, and Chaloner knows he has to ignore his master's instructions and use his own considerable wits to defeat an enemy whose deadly tentacles reach into the very heart of the government: an enemy who has the power and expertise to destroy anyone who stands in the way...
- Murder on High Holborn (2014)
In 1665 England is facing war with the Dutch and the capital is awash with rumours of conspiracy and sedition. These are more frenetic than normal because of the recent sinking in the Thames of one of the largest ships in the navy - a disastrous tragedy that could very well have been caused by sabotage. As an experienced investigator, Thomas Chaloner knows that there are very few grains of truth in the shifting sands of the rumour-mill, but the loss of such an important warship and the murder of Paul Ferine, a Groom of the Robes, in a brothel favoured by the elite of the Palace of White Hall makes him scent a whiff of genuine treason. As well as investigating the murder, Chaloner is charged with tracking down the leaders of a fanatical sect known as the Fifth Monarchists. He suspects his masters are not particularly concerned by their amateur antics, and that the order for him to infiltrate the group is intended to distract him from uncovering some unsavoury facts about Ferine and his courtly associates. Then, as he comes to know more about the Fifth Monarchists and their meetings on High Holborn, he discovers a puzzling number of connections - to both Ferine's murder and those involved with the defence of the realm. Connections that he must disentangle before it is too late to save the country...