The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory

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The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory

Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The twenty-third book in the series is a good, absorbing read with an impressive background of research. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432/14h38m Date: August 2017
Publisher: Sphere
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0751562637

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It was 1360 and Michaelhouse was in dire financial straits: they could last a little longer but not that long. Then it seemed that a lifeline might have been thrown to them when they heard that the wealthy Elizabeth de Burgh of the Suffolk town of Clare was dead and it was possible that The Lady, as she was known, had left them a legacy. It seemed that the best thing to do was to go to Clare to claim the money (or to try and prove that it had been intended and should therefore be paid) with all haste. The real mission could be concealed behind the bald statement that they were there to attend the funeral. Matthew Bartholomew was one of the contingent from Michaelhouse.

The journey was less than ideal, money having to be spent on lodgings because others were dilatory, but there was an even bigger problem waiting for them on their arrival. Elizabeth de Burgh was very much alive, but others seemed to have been dying with astounding regularity. What were the Michaelhouse contingent to do? They could hardly depart unceremoniously, but what reason, other than trying to raise some donations, could they have for staying?

It isn't until you read the author's note at the end of the book that you realise the extent to which the characters in The Habit of Murder are based on real people and you can see the extent of Susanna Gregory's research. It is, you see, worn very lightly: it's not a book where every fact which has been gleaned has been shoehorned in, no matter whether or not it's relevant. In fact, the reverse is true - you sense that this is an author who could tell you a great deal more, should the occasion arise.

Gregory captures the feel of the age perfectly, particularly with the accommodations which had to be made in certain circumstances. Abortion might be against the laws of God and King, but there were times when the expediency had to be admitted. It wasn't liked, but it wasn't entirely frowned upon either, but then this was an age when the law seemed to be advisory rather than mandatory in lots of areas.

We've known a good number of these characters for a long time, given that this is the twenty-third book in the series and they serve us well. Matthew Bartholomew is a physician, but he's also expected to turn his hand to the care of birds. In Clare the medical work is done by the barber and there are quite a few of his practices which you wouldn't want to encounter.

The plot's good too: the bodies pile up with astounding rapidity and I had quite a few people chalked in as the potential murderer - usually to find them dead in pretty short order. The solution is ingenious, and I hadn't worked it out, although all the clues are there.

In addition to reading the book I also listened to an audio download (which I bought myself), read by David Thorpe. He is stronger on the male voices, but the cast of characters in this story is predominantly male. The range of voices is good and I was never in any doubt as to who was talking and voices didn't bleed into each other. I'd happily listen to more from Thorpe.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

The books do read perfectly well as standalones, but if you'd like to read them in the order in which they were written, you can find a chronological list here.

Buy The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory at Amazon You could get a free audio download of The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory at Amazon.com.


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