The Lost Abbot by Susanna Gregory
This latest installment by the ever-superb Susanna Gregory has Matt and Michael hotfooting (or, perhaps, waddling quickly in the latter's case) out of Cambridge on a seven day mission to locate Abbot Robert who's been missing for a month with the town's only physician Pyk. The deadline has been arbitrarily imposed because Michael feels he needs to get back to personally write the charter for the new Winwick Hall before it causes a right ruckus in Cambridge. This allows Gregory to impart a sense of haste as the motley cavalcade of our sleuthing duo, Langelee, William, and Clippesby arrive just in time to find two hospitals in Peterborough vying for wealth using the dubious relics of either a 143 year old man (Kirwell) or the corpse of a very evil, very dead burglar (name of Lawrence de Oxforde) both of whom apparently grant miracles. Both are also linked because it was Kirwell to whom Oxforde bequeathed a prayer before being hung, Kirwell who was struck by a shaft of light from heaven as he knelt by the latter's grave (all of this takes place in the prologue).
Of course, such is nonsense but a swift bashing in of the unsavoury Joan's head as Matt and Michael arrive in town leads to a litany of murders greater than number of days to solve them. Who could possibly be responsible? The list is long, starting with the Unholy Trinity of Nonton, Ramseye and Welbyrn - the latter two old foes of Matt after he publicly challenged them whilst a student. He even had a fight with Welbyrn. Of course, the missing abbot has brought out the political scheming of both these three and many others: Reginald the Cutler, Prior Yvo, the unctuous Botilbrig, the soft-handed Spalling (whose incendiary proclamations against the rich lead to a near village pitchfork fight on the road), the pusillanimous Lullington, the innocuous Appletre and Henry, and lastly, but by no means least, Aurifabro - commissioned to make a patten which has now been stopped given the absence of the abbot - general enemy of most of the town and clergy.
It's a series of murders, pure and simple; the common thread is that of personal gain, the spitefulness of some coupled with the hidden motives of others is what makes the mystery intriguing. Finally, Gregory gives us some hope with Mathilde. Matt knows she lives, knows she is trying to find the necessary money to keep them both so he can continue aiding the poor. It's something those who follow Gregory have craved for some novels now and we may finally get to see them together a few novels from now.
As ever I could extol the literary powers of Gregory for a long time, but endless praising reviews seem repetitive to me. It is as brilliant as ever, so brilliant in fact that I've got to pick up Gregory on one point and, given, it's the first in nearly thirty novels, made it stand out, a rarity indeed. She has Bartholomew unhappy with William: "Bartholomew was not happy with William for volunteering his services in so cavalier a manner". The word cavalier wasn't around for another hundred-plus years so doubtful he'd think that. Tiny, but given Gregory's skills, it was like finding a plain needle in a golden haystack. I hope Gregory writes another forty novels. Matt deserves it, her readers crave it.
This The Lost Abbot 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...
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