Book Review: Deeds of Darkness

9 Nov

Many medieval scholars discontinued their university studies before completing their degree. Some lacked funds; others became bored with a scholar’s life. Occasionally these young men formed lawless bands, robbing and raping and creating chaos. They were called goliards.

In Deeds of Darkness Master Hugh learns that the Bampton coroner, an old friend, has been slain while traveling to Oxford. As he seeks the killer (or killers) he discovers a band of goliards in the area between Oxford and Bampton. But how to apprehend these youths? They have protectors far above Hugh’s station. He must deal with the claims of justice on the one hand and the power of great men to protect their henchmen on the other.

 

 

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received an 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 married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Naperville, IL, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.

 

My Impressions:

I love, love, love Mel Starr’s medieval mystery series featuring surgeon and bailiff, Hugh de Singleton. Not only does Starr bring medieval England to life, he creates an intelligent mystery that keeps both the main character and the reader on his toes. Deeds of Darkness is the 10th book in the series and is as fresh as all the rest. If you love history and mystery this one is for you!

Hugh is once again charged with uncovering a mysterious event in his bailiwick. Besides determining what happened to businessman and coroner, Hubert Shillside, Hugh is faced with assaults, murders, hamsoken (breaking and entering), and threats to himself and family. All in all, just another episode for his chronicles.

Starr does his homework in the creation of Hugh’s world. Interesting details of everyday life and a sprinkling of old English words combine with the social order of the day. His characters are very much medieval in their attitudes and ethics, but there is plenty there for the modern reader to identify with. Men (and women) haven’t changed that much in the 600+ years since Hugh lived. The mystery is filled with twists, turns, and puzzling clues. Deeds of Darkness keeps the reader guessing. Justice in 14th century England is unlike our’s — the state and church had separate jurisdictions and sentencing requirements. But it is certain that, one way or the other, everyone got what they deserved. Hugh is a very devout man and keeps the tenets of the church and the teaching of Jesus to the forefront of his mind, even when they are difficult to follow. Starr portrays a world in which faith is the center of a man’s world, but in the latter days of the 1300s, a reforming wind is in the air.

Intelligent, intriguing, and just plain fun, Deeds of Darkness is a recommended read. And with other deeds of darkness sure to come in the future, I look forward to more adventures with Hugh.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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