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Wednesday 23 November 2016

‘A Poisonous Plot’ by Susannah Gregory

Published by Sphere,
2 June 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4978-2

The year is 1358 and the Prologue opens with the deaths of five people seemingly from similar illnesses.

There is great rivalry between Michaelhouse College and Zachary Hostel and the townspeople do not like either of them. It is All Hallows Eve and there is great unrest in the air. Well known brewer Frenge is found dead and physician Matthew Bartholomew declares he was poisoned but cannot tell by what or by whom.

When deaths start to mount up, Matthew's sister Edith's dye works are blamed, the smell is atrocious and the workers are accused of pouring substances into the river and polluting it. Not very popular either is the fact that she only employs ex-prostitutes.

Matthew and his friend Michael, a monk from Michaelhouse College begin investigations into all the deaths but are really puzzled as to the causes. Can secura a sweetener widely used have anything to do with the unexplained deaths? However it is terribly expensive and Michael and Matthew are mystified as to how so many people can afford it.

There is also an undercurrent of unrest among some of the scholars who want the University and Hostel to move to the fens. Someone seems to be stirring them all up, who can it be and does this have anything to do with all the mounting deaths?

Michael and Matthew have their work cut out to identify this person and solve the poisonings, with no small risk to themselves.

I do enjoy Susannah Gregory's books set in centuries gone by and this lived up to my expectations. I have read several about Matthew Bartholomew and they have all been very good. Her descriptions of life in the 14th century really brings it alive and I could almost smell the “stink” of the dye works!

I see from the Epilogue that although of course it is a work of fiction, many of the characters actually existed, it made it seem all that more real, a great read.
Reviewer: Tricia Cappell

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.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf  (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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