Tag Archives: Mel Starr

Top 10 Tuesday — Vivid Settings

23 Jul

In some books the setting takes a backseat to characterization or plot — the book could take place just about anywhere. But in some books the setting is a major player in, well, setting the scenes. 😉 Whether it is the time or place, an author that can skillfully bring the reader to the site of the story is tops in my books. (Sorry/not sorry for the pun 😉 )  This week Top 10 Tuesday challenged bloggers to share settings they would like to see more of (or not at all), but of course I am tweaking yet again. My list features books that got the setting just right, allowing me to see and feel what the characters did. I hope you find a place to visit and a book to love!

For more on settings, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top Settings in Recent Reads

 

Alaska — Alaska Twilight by Colleen Coble

Ancient Israel — The Shelter of The Most High by Connilyn Cossette

Colonial Canada — Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green

Colonial North Carolina — The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

Edisto Island, South Carolina — The Bridge Between by Lindsey Brackett

Medieval England — Prince Edward’s Warrant by Mel Starr

WWII Germany — My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

WWII Poland — The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

When The Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma

Yellowstone National Park — Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett

Top 10 Tuesday — Traveling Back In Time

26 Feb

Welcome to Top 10 Tuesday. This week we were charged with sharing the various book locations we would love to visit. I decided to share places I have journeyed to recently that are best suited for book travel. Each well-researched book brought a new perspective to a time and place in history. And while a time machine would be required to visit the places I have listed, it is my affection for flush toilets, antibiotics, and the safety of my own home, that prompts a book-only adventure! 😉

For more bookish travel, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top Book Locations I Liked Visiting (But Only In A Book! 😉 )

 

Freedom’s Kiss by Sarah Monzon (early 1800 Florida)

Hidden Among The Stars by Melanie Dobson (WWII Austria)

The Liberty Bride by Marylu Tyndall (War of 1812)

The Patriot Bride by Kimberly Woodhouse (Revolutionary War)

Prince Edward’s Warrant by Mel Starr (14th century England)

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton (early 1800s Tennessee)

The Seamstress by Allison Pittman (French Revolution)

Searching for You by Jody Hedlund (1850s orphan trains)

Shelter of The Most High by Connilyn Cossette (OT Israel)

When The Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma (WWII Poland)

 

Where would you like to travel?

Book Review: Prince Edward’s Warrant

16 Jan

Master Hugh won the Black Prince’s favor when he helped to ease the Prince’s illness. Now, in the autumn of 1372, the prince is suffering a relapse and sends to Bampton for Master Hugh to attend him. While at dinner in Kennington Palace, Sir Giles, the knight who escorted Hugh to London, is stricken and dies. Poison! Sir Giles is not popular, and there are many who would gladly see the fellow done away with — except for Prince Edward. The Black Prince feels a debt to the slain man because of his heroic behavior at the Battle of Crecy, where the knight stood firm with the prince when the fight seemed of uncertain outcome. Despite caring little for Sir Giles, Master Hugh must once again place himself in jeopardy and seek to uncover the perpetrator of the crime.

 

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. They have two daughters, and seven grandchildren.

 

My Impressions:

Master Hugh de Singleton is back with a new chronicle of a mystery solved in Prince Edward’s Warrant. Hugh must leave the comfort of his hearth to minister to the Black Prince Edward. Having served him well in France, Hugh is called to treat and cure, if he can, the malady that afflicts the prince. But as always, Hugh soon finds himself in the midst of a mystery, this time the poisoning of one of Edward’s favorite knights. The bodies soon pile up as Hugh doggedly follows the clues.

Mel Starr’s historical mysteries are some of my favorites. Limited by his time and place, Hugh manages to use his intuition, limited scientific knowledge, and insight into the human psyche to solve complex crimes of passion and greed. The setting for the latest novel is Kennington Palace, a long gone favorite of Prince Edward. Life at court, with its protocol, amusements, and hierarchy, is shared with a detail that adds to the narrative. Hugh is a chronicler of more than murder and mayhem, and shares his thoughts on the fashions, customs, and politics of 14th century England. I especially love Hugh’s musings on the religious practices and dogma of the day. Hugh also has a dry wit that is spotlighted in his dealings with Edward’s personal physician. While Hugh may be a mere mechanic in his profession as surgeon, he is much more practical and methodical in his study of the common diseases of the day than the puffed up Dr. Blackwell. As both bailiff to Sir Gilbert and surgeon, Hugh brings a mix of expertise to his quest for the perpetrators. Fans of mysteries will love Hugh’s detecting prowess.

Another winner from the skilled pen of Starr, Prince Edward’s Warrant is a must-read for fans of historical mysteries and medieval fiction.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

 

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.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Fall TBR List

19 Sep

Can you believe that in two days it will be Fall?! Here in middle Georgia the department stores are sporting Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decor for sale, but the temperatures are hovering in the Summer-range, so Fall doesn’t seem that imminent. But what is imminent is my Fall TBR list (or pile!). The folks at The Broke And The Bookish are asking bloggers to share what they will be reading in the next few months, and I am always eager to oblige. I have a wide variety of reading ahead of me — historical, romance, contemporary, mystery/suspense, and interestingly enough, a couple of Christmas novels! So without further ado, my Fall TBR List!

Top Ten Books on My TBR List

The Case of The Clobbered Cad by Debra E. Marvin

Charming The Troublemaker by Pepper Basham

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Christy by Catherine Marshall

Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport

Deeds of Darkness by Mel Starr

How Sweet The Sound by Amy Sorrells 

Lydia by Diana Wallis Taylor

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

What are you reading this Fall?

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Unusual Crime-Solving Professions

1 Aug

IYears ago I read G.K. Chesterton’s collection of short stories entitled The Club of Queer Trades. It was fun reading. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

(For Amazon) British writers have long enjoyed inventing preposterous clubs with eccentric members, unusual qualifications for membership and zany rules of behavior. The brilliant and gifted G. K. Chesterton was no exception, and the entertaining short stories in this volume revolve around just such an institution. In The Club of Queer Trades, candidates qualify for admission by creating a thoroughly original profession and proving they can make a living from it.

Six marvelously funny episodes with improbable plots are made especially pleasurable through Chesterton’s vivid descriptions of late Victorian London, sly pokes at the legal system, and a characteristic gift for delicious nonsense. In each story, a bizarre crime — such as kidnapping of a respected clergyman in “The Awful Reason of the Vicar’s Visit” — seems in the process of being committed. Actually, the events are all frenzied activities traceable to club members or would-be members. Here are intriguing tales of a little old lady imprisoned in a gloomy private dungeon; of prim and proper matrons bent on committing evil deeds; of a former British army officer and his extremely unusual residence; and a host of other incredible characters and situations.

This book got me thinking of all the mystery and suspense I read, and the many jobs the main characters have. There are plenty of FBI agents, US Marshals, and other law enforcement types, plus doctors, lawyers, PIs, bodyguards, etc., who get in on the action. But what about the unassuming amateurs or even the little known professionals that solve crimes, at least fictional crimes? So for this Top Ten Tuesday I’ve compiled a list of my own queer trades.

Top Crime-Solving Professions

 

Advice Columnist — Josephine Tulip (Mindy Starns Clark)

Josephine Tulip is definitely a smart chick, a twenty-first century female MacGyver who writes a helpful hints column and solves mysteries in her spare time. Her best friend, Danny, is a talented photographer who longs to succeed in his career…perhaps a cover photo on National Geographic?

When Jo’s next-door neighbor is accused of murder, Jo realizes the police have the wrong suspect. As she and Danny analyze clues, follow up on leads, and fall in and out of trouble, she recovers from a broken heart and he discovers that he has feelings for her. Will Danny have the courage to reveal them, or will he continue to hide them behind a façade of friendship?

Bailiff — Hugh de Singleton (Mel Starr)

Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh’s investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor. As Hugh’s pursuit of Kate becomes more successful, mysterious accidents begin to occur. Are these accidents tied to the missing books, or to his pursuit of Kate?

One of the stolen books turns up alongside the drowned body of a poor Oxford scholar. Another accident? Hugh certainly doesn’t think so, but it will take all of his surgeon’s skills to prove.

Church Secretary — Cindy Preston (Debbie Viguie)

Cindy and Jeremiah come from two different worlds, even though they work right next door to each other. Cindy is a strong Christian who lives a normal but somewhat dull life, working as a church secretary. Jeremiah is a Reformed rabbi with a mysterious past full of danger and excitement. But one eventful Easter/Passover week, the two find themselves working together to solve a murder and stop a serial killer from striking again. Solving the mystery should put an end to their alliance, but the church secretary and the rabbi quickly find themselves enmeshed in another mystery. Soon the two form a friendly alliance and friendship, exploring personal history and faith and growing closer with each passing adventure. Despite their differences Cindy and Jeremiah find a lot of common ground.

Crime Scene Cleaner — Gabby St. Claire (Christy Barritt)

Gabby St. Claire dropped out of school on her way to completing a degree in forensic science. Instead, she did the next best thing: she started her own crime scene cleaning business. When a routine cleaning job uncovers a murder weapon the police overlooked, she realizes that the wrong person is in jail. But the owner of the weapon is willing to do anything to keep Gabby quiet. With the help of her neighbor, Riley Thomas, Gabby plays detective. But can Riley help her before another murder occurs?

 

 

English Teacher — Amelia Prentice (E. E. Kennedy)

Amelia Prentice, a forty-something high school English teacher comfortable in her predictable routine, regains consciousness after tripping over the corpse of a former student in the safest of places, the public library. Returning to the classroom, she tries to pretend nothing happened. But when it becomes obvious that the victim’s death wasn’t an accident and she is now a murder suspect, she realizes that her cozy small-town life in New York’s Adirondack region will never be the same.
 
Crazy things begin to happen: The victim’s mother disappears. Amelia’s friend Lily is thrown overboard from the Lake Champlain ferryboat. A mysterious millionaire from Montreal seems determined to buy Amelia’s house. The school nurse is viciously attacked by a student. Amelia’s old beau Gil suddenly seems determined to rekindle their romance. Amelia is carjacked, and of course, there’s the Lake Champlain Monster . . . 
 
It will take all Amelia’s wisdom, humor, and faith to figure out what’s going on and embrace the new life that lies ahead. If she survives.

Forensic Artist — Gwen Marcy (Carrie Stuart Parks)

In 1857, a wagon train in Utah was assaulted by a group of militant Mormons calling themselves the Avenging Angels. One hundred and forty people were murdered, including unarmed men, women, and children. The Mountain Meadows Massacre remains controversial to this day–but the truth may be written on the skulls of the victims.
When renowned forensic artist Gwen Marcey is recruited to reconstruct the faces of recently unearthed victims at Mountain Meadows, she isn’t expecting more than an interesting gig . . . and a break from her own hectic life.

But when Gwen stumbles on the ritualized murder of a young college student, her work on the massacre takes on a terrifying new aspect, and research quickly becomes a race against modern-day fundamentalist terror.
As evidence of a cover-up mounts–a cover-up spanning the entire history of the Mormon church–Gwen finds herself in the crosshairs of a secret society bent on fulfilling prophecy and revenging old wrongs.

Can a forensic artist reconstruct two centuries of suppressed history . . . before it repeats itself?

In A Cry from the Dust, Carrie Stuart Parks utilizes her own background as a celebrated, FBI-trained forensic artist to blend fact and fiction into a stunning mystery.

Housewife — Tess Spenser (Heather Day Gilbert)

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her. But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox — a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting — Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself. Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

Limo Driver — Andi McConnell (Lorena McCourtney)

Downsized from her job.
Dumped by her boyfriend.
Depressed about that upcoming 6-0 birthday.
Not a good week for Andi McConnell.

But now there’s good news: She’s just inherited a limousine, a long, sleek, black limousine, from an eccentric uncle.

There’s also bad news: The dead body that soon turns up in the trunk. And Andi is the top suspect in the murder.

Enter Keegan “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, former TV detective, very interested in the case – and in Andi. As they work together to solve the crime, a big question looms: when the bullets start flying, are the windows in Andi’s limo really bullet proof?

Night Watchman — Ray Quinn (Mark Mynhier)

Eleven months ago, Ray Quinn was a tough, quick-witted Orlando homicide detective at the top of his game–until a barrage of bullets ended his career…and his partner’ s life.

Now medically retired with a painful handicap, Ray battles the haunting guilt for his partner’s death. Numbing the pain with alcohol and attitude, Ray takes a job as a night watchman at a swanky Orlando condo.

But when a pastor and an exotic dancer are found dead in one of the condos in an apparent murder-suicide, Ray can no longer linger in the shadows. The pastor’s sister is convinced her brother was framed and begs Ray to take on an impossible case — to challenge the evidence and clear her brother’s name.

Ray reluctantly pulls the threads of this supposedly dead-end case only to unravel a murder investigation so deep that it threatens to turn the Orlando political landscape upside down and transform old friends into new enemies. As Ray chases down leads and interrogates suspects, someone is watching his every move, someone determined to keep him from ever finding out the truth — at any cost.

Nun — Sister Evangeline Devine (Lynne Hinton)

Sister Eve knows God moves in mysterious ways. And Eve adores a good mystery. Especially a murder.

Two decades into her calling at a New Mexico monastery, Sister Evangeline Divine breaks her daily routine when a police officer appears, carrying a message from her father. Sister Eve is no stranger to the law, having grown up with a police captain turned private detective. She’s seen her fair share of crime―and knows a thing or two about solving mysteries.

But when Captain Jackson Divine needs her to return home and help him recover from surgery, Sister Eve finds herself taking on his latest case.

A Hollywood director has disappeared, and the sultry starlet he’s been running around with isn’t talking. When the missing man turns up dead, Captain Divine’s case escalates into a full-blown murder case, and Sister Eve’s crime-solving instincts kick in with an almost God-given grace.

Soon Sister Eve finds herself soul-searching every step of the way: How can she choose between the vocation in her heart and the job in her blood?

Recovery Specialist — Landry Parker and Nickolai Baptiste (Robin Caroll)

Former Army MP Landry Parker fell into the recovery specialist role quite by accident — to help her ailing father. Now that she’s on her own, she is determined to prove herself and honor her family legacy.

After being shot in the line of duty, former police officer Nickolai Baptiste became a recovery specialist, and he’s good at his job — maybe even the best.
           
A potential client pits Landry and Nickolai against one another to find the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine map that was stolen from her murdered husband, and the potential payday is too enticing to pass up. The trail takes them from New Orleans to Weaver’s Needle in Arizona where legend claims the mine is hidden. Landry and Nickolai are no strangers to adventure, but the unlikely partners quickly discover there’s someone after the treasure and there are those who want to ensure the lost mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountain stays lost forever.

Can Landry and Nickolai work together despite their distrust of each other to save the legend before more innocent lives are lost? Will they find the real treasure isn’t the gold, but something more valuable . . . true love and understanding?

What do you do?

Could you solve mysteries too?

 

 

 

Book Review: Lucifer’s Harvest

12 Dec

514ihgwgogl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Lord Gilbert Talbot must provide soldiers for Prince Edward’s battle in France. He wishes his surgeon–Hugh de Singleton–to travel with the war party to tend any injuries. Among those on the road is Sir Simon Trillowe, Hugh’s old nemesis, who had once torched Hugh’s house.

Finding himself in the same war party, Hugh resolves to watch his back in the presence of the knight, who is still holding a grudge. But it is Sir Simon who should not have turned his back….

When Trillowe’s body is found, many suspect Hugh has wreaked revenge on his adversary. To clear his name, Hugh must once again riddle a reason for murder.

 

authorMel 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:

The tenth installment of The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon, Lucifer’s Harvest, continues the adventures of Master Hugh as he accompanies the military campaign of Prince Edward of England as he seeks to recover his lands in Acquitaine. Hugh’s role of surgeon may keep him out of direct military involvement, but it does not keep him from danger. The death of his nemesis mobilizes Hugh to uncover the murderer before he finds himself on the end of a rope.

Mel Starr does a great job of bringing medieval society to life. In Lucifer’s Harvest, the emphasis is on war. Starr’s impeccable research is evident in the detail portrayed in the story. Warfare was very different in the 14th century than it is today, and I found the strategy and weapons used very interesting. Hugh, as always, is resourceful in his investigations. With only limited understanding of science and forensics, his intelligence and intuition keep him on track. Hugh is dedicated to truth in all things. His religious views border on the heretical for the time, but add to the thoughtfulness of his examination of human motives and God’s justice. Lucifer’s Harvest is a bit darker than Starr’s previous books. Life is precarious and death comes for all, young and old. The pragmatism in a time of low life expectancies and high child mortality does not subtract from the grief and sorrow of a loss.

It is not necessary to read the previous 9 books of the series to enjoy Lucifer’s Harvest, but I definitely recommend beginning from the beginning of this series. All the books get a recommended rating from me.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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