Tag Archives: Mel Starr

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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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.)

 

Top 10 Tuedsay — New Books in The TBR Pile

8 Nov

Books, books and more books! That’s what my life looks like! I am always on the lookout for my next great read, even when I have 10s 100s 1000s waiting in the wings! This week the folks at The Broke And The Bookish have challenged us to list our most recently added books to the old TBR list. I will limit my list to just 10, although I could probably go on and on. To find out what other bloggers are looking forward to reading, click HERE.

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I think I have a good mix of books to read in the upcoming weeks — history, mystery, romance, Christmas-themed and Indie-published novels. Eclectic, but that’s how I like it.

Top 10 Recently Added Books on The TBR List

 

Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard

A Christmas to Remember by Linda Brooks Davis

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering

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The End of The Roadie by Elizabeth Flynn

Finding Riley by Dan Walsh

Lucifer’s Harvest by Mel Starr

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year by Ace Collins

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O Little Town of Bethany by Rene Guttering and Cheryl McKay

The Princes of Albion by Jon and Thomas Hopkins

Truth Be Told by J J Hemmestad

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What are some of the books you are reading next?

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Books That Made Me Want to Travel!

26 Jul

Thanks so much to the folks at The Broke And The Bookish who week after week host the fun and fabulous Top 10 Tuesday. This week’s challenge is to list the Top 10 Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do. To find out what other bloggers have learned or are inspired to do, click HERE.

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Well above all else, books make me want to travel. Now as my husband will attest, I am not much of a traveler. But the following books have really sparked my interest. Whether it is to real life places or places I can only dream about, here is my list.

Top Books That Make Me Want to Travel

 

Travel in Unique Ways

Route 66 — The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee

Public Transportation — Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus by Joyce Magnin

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Travel to Unique Locales

Ca d’Zan Ringling Museum — The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

Oregon Sea Stacks — Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon

Shetland Islands — The Inheritance by Michael Phillips

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Travel Back in Time

Viking Days — God’s Daughter by Heather Gilbert

Medieval Period — The Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay

Ashes to Ashes by Mel Starr

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Travel to Fictional Small Towns

Appleton — Lock, Stock And Over A Barrel by Melody Carlson

Bright’s Pond — The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin

Last Chance — Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

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Travel Across Time/Space/Universe

The Bright Empires Series by Stephen Lawhead

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Where do you want to travel?

Book Review: Ashes to Ashes

4 Feb

UnknownThe morning after the festivities of Midsummer’s Eve, the villagers of Bampton make a grisly discovery.

Master Hugh, Kate, and their children attend the Midsummer’s Eve fire. The next morning Hugh hears the passing bell ring from the Church of St. Beornwald, and moments later is summoned. Tenants collecting the ashes to spread upon their fields have found burned bones.

Master Hugh learns of several men of Bampton and nearby villages who have gone missing recently. Most are soon found, some alive, some dead. Master Hugh eventually learns that the bones are those of a bailiff from a nearby manor. Someone has slain him and placed his body in the fire to destroy evidence of murder.

Bailiffs are not popular men; they dictate labor service, collect rents, and enforce other obligations. Has this bailiff died at the hand of some angry tenant? Hugh soon discovers this is not the case. There is quite another 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:

In Ashes to Ashes, the 8th book in Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton series, greed is the key motivation for crime. But just who is the greedy party? It seems most everyone has a reason for the murder of a fellow bailiff or at least a reason to cover it up. But Hugh has, besides a strong sense of justice, a stubborn streak that will not let go of a case, even when it turns dangerous.

For fans of both mystery and history, Mel Starr’s books are a perfect fit. I love the detail he includes in his novels — from what the characters eat and wear to the political and religious culture. Times were hard in the 14th century, especially with the impact of the Black Death. Society is changing, but human nature never does. Without any high-tech gadgets, Hugh manages to solve the crime, though justice is not always served. Keen observation and an in-depth knowledge of the human mind make Hugh formidable when he is in the midst of his investigation. Hugh is definitely a product of his day. Forward looking and a man of science, he has a strong dependence on God to lead and guide. Another book, Lucifer’s Harvest, is in the works, but it remains to be seen if Hugh and his family will remain in Bampton. As honorable as Hugh is, no one really likes a bailiff!

A great series and a great book! Ashes to Ashes can be read as a standalone, but those who have been following the career of Hugh de Singleton are in for another treat.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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