Gregory, Susanna - 'To Kill or Cure'
This quite excellent book, the thirteenth in the series, is set in Cambridge during the year 1357. The streets are muddy, dirty from horses and full of rain filled pot holes and there is a feud going on between the town's landlords and the student hostels over the rents charged which have been fixed at ridiculously low levels for many years. The landlords want to increase them by 300 percent but the plague which has finished relatively recently has taken most of the College's resources.
There is a near riot between supporters of the landlords on the one hand and those of the College authorities on the other and when it is over, it is discovered that two people have been killed. Matthew Bartholomew, physician and Fellow of Michaelhouse College examines the bodies and discovers that both have been killed by bolts from a single crossbow. Then an ex-master of Michaelhouse dies mysteriously at an Easter Day feast and Matthew's sleuthing skills are again required.
Usually Matthew is in great demand, as he is one of only four physicians working in Cambridge but a strange new healer with "magical properties" is suddenly very popular and most of Matthew's patients desert him. This new healer has a curious "magical" feather which he waves over the sick person's affected parts and suddenly a recovery occurs. He also relieves these patients of large sums of money for his fees for his "cures".
There is controversy over a lot of the brother monks losing money in a gambling den and lots of arguments between the teaching part of the town and the town council itself. Also the Dominicans and Franciscans, who control different colleges, have disagreements which heighten the tension.
I'm reminded a lot of the Brother Cadfael mysteries by this story. Although of course they were written about the 12th Century and not the 14th where Brother Matthew Bartholomew features.
The story was very entertaining, the historical research is first rate and there are a lot of side plots and some very unusual characters with odd personal habits to take one's attention from the main plot. All in all a great entertainment for the cold winter days.
Terry Halligan, England