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Tuesday 26 September 2017

‘The Habit of Murder’ by Susanna Gregory

Published by Sphere,
24 August 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-6263-7 (HB)

The Prologue tells of Badew Hall in Cambridge in 1346 being in dire straits. Richard de Badew its founder, has run out of money and reluctantly signs it over to Elizabeth de Burgh known as the Lady of Clare. From thenceforth it is to be called Clare Hall, Badew is devastated and swears before God to get the hall back.
The plot then advances to 1360 in Clare, Suffolk and alterations are being carried out to the parish church. Roger, a very unpopular man and the Master Mason is tragically killed. It is thought to be an accident, but is it?

Having received a letter telling them the Lady of Clare is dead, a contingent from Michaelhouse College Cambridge, sets out for Clare as the Lady had once hinted that she would leave them a legacy in her will. It is headed by Ralph de Langelee, Master of Michaelhouse, Brother Michael and physician Matthew Bartholomew. Among others riding with them is Badew, now a bitter and twisted man together with his two cohorts Roos and Harweden.

On arrival in Clare Michael and Matthew are informed that the Lady is in good health. Who could have written the letter to get them to come to Clare, and why?

While admiring the new vaulted ceiling in the parish church they meet Anne the anchoress. She has chosen to be bricked up in a cell to devote her life to God. However, Matthew declares her to be a fraud as she lives a life of comparative luxury and what is her relationship with the vicar, Nicholas?
It's not long before there are a number of unexplained deaths in Clare and Michael and Matthew are reluctantly drawn into finding out whether they are accidental or not.

There is a great deal of bad feeling between the castle and the townspeople and matters come to a head when the Lady announces that she and her entourage at the castle will be the only ones to use the beautiful new vaulted ceiling church. The townspeople can use the ugly new South Aisle built on the side. Tempers flare, more deaths follow. They can't all be accidents surely? Michael and Matthew really struggle to to unravel the truth, especially when the Lady offers a large reward to whoever can solve the deaths as this encourages others to join in the rush to find the answer and claim the money. Who will win the purse?

I do enjoy Susannah Gregory's books about Brother Michael and his friend Matthew Bartholomew. She really brings the fourteenth century to life. An added interest is the fact that many of the characters in her books actually existed, together with colleges mentioned, as explained in the Author's Notes at the back of the book.

This is a great story highly recommended especially for those who enjoy following the exploits of Michaelhouse.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

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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