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Thursday, 15 January 2015

‘The Lost Abbot’ by Susanna Gregory

Published by Sphere,
6 June 2013.
ISBN 978-0-7515-4973-7

The Lost Abbot is the nineteenth book in this series. Matthew Bartholomew is a master at the College of Michaelhouse at the University of Cambridge, where he teaches medicine. In the summer of 1358 Mathew doesn't want to go to Peterborough but he has no choice. He is one of the Bishop of Lincoln’s commissioners, the others are Procter Michael, Master Langalee, William, Clippsby and Cynric. They have to discover what happened to Peterborough's abbot, who rode out to visit a goldsmith and has not been seen since. Abbot Robert has been missing for a month along with the town's physician Pyk. The commissioners have only seven days to discover the truth because Michael wants to get back home. He needs to write the charter for a new college, Winwick Hall, to avoid uproar in Cambridge.

The story begins with a description of the execution of Lawrence de Oxforde, a viscous murderer and thief, some fifty years before. When the Commissioners arrive after a troubled journey, they find the town in mayhem. Someone is inciting the poor to rise up against their overlords and the abbey is at war with a powerful goldsmith and his gang of mercenaries. The obedientiaries of the Abbey have already started infighting over who will be the next abbot and are hostile to the commission. Both hospitals in Peterborough are bitter rivals as the shrines compete at making money from their dubious relics. One uses a 143 year old man called Kirwell, the other uses the grave of the evil Lawrence de Oxforde. Both apparently grant miracles and both are linked because Oxforde gave Kirwell a prayer before being hung. This prayer is the key to Kirwell’s longevity, as long as he doesn’t show it to anyone.  Thus begins a series of murders, the first victim being Joan, the woman in charge of Oxforde's tomb.

The Matthew Bartholomew novels are about a physician living and working in Cambridge in the 1340s and 1350s. He is the University's 'corpse examiner.' Bartholomew and proctor Michael investigate unexplained deaths, often Mathew is unwilling, they are inaccurate and in-competent detectives but with luck they inevitably come to the correct conclusion.

Fans of Mathew Bartholomew and Susanna Gregory will enjoy this book immensely.
Reviewer: Sue Lord

Susanna Gregory was raised in Bristol. After graduating from university, she spent three years in Leeds, as an officer in the West Yorkshire Police, before taking up an academic career. She has served as an environmental consultant, doing fieldwork with whales, seals and walruses during seventeen field seasons in the polar regions, and has taught comparative anatomy and biological anthropology. She is the creator of the Thomas Chaloner series of mysteries set in Restoration London as well as the Matthew Bartholomew books, and now lives in Wales with her husband, who is also a writer.

Sue Lord originally studied Fine Art and Art History, her MA is in Creative Writing. She now, revues, teaches, mentors and script doctors. She lives in central London and Cornwall. Her favourite pastime is gardening.

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