Deeds of Darkness by Mel Starr

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1371 – England

When Bampton’s coroner, Hubert Shillside, does not return from a trip to Oxford, Master Hugh de Singleton is called. Concerned for his old friend, Hugh takes to the road to investigate. Travel is safer than in times hence but, out of sight of prying eyes; it is still unwise to travel alone… Hugh finds a body, stabbed and left to rot, but it is not the body he was expecting to find. Indeed, reports of pillage, attacks, and chaos on the roads out of Oxford suddenly seem rampant. Hugh must ascertain whether the incidents are random, or whether something darker is afoot. The guilty cannot afford to be caught, but what lengths will they go to cover their tracks, and will Hugh escape unscathed?

Lucifer’s Harvest by Mel Starr

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1370 – England/France

King Charles of France has announced that he is confiscating Aquitaine, and Prince Edward has sent for knights and men at arms from England to assist him in opposing the French king. Lord Gilbert Talbot is required to provide five knights, twelve squires, and twenty archers and men at arms, and wishes his surgeon “ Hugh de Singleton“ to travel with the party, while Hugh’s wife Kate will oversee the castle. Among the party will be Sir Simon Trillowe, Hugh’s old nemesis and Kate’s former suitor, who had once set fire to Hugh’s house. After a brawl on the streets of Oxford Sir Simon had nearly lost an ear; Hugh had sewn it back on but it had healed crooked, and Simon blamed Hugh for the disfigurement. Finding himself in the same party, Hugh resolves not to turn his back on the knight“ but it is Sir Simon who should not have turned his back.

Ashes to Ashes by Mel Starr

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1369 – England

Master Hugh, Kate, and their children attend the Midsummer’s Eve fire. Next morning early Hugh hears the passing bell ring from the Church of St. Beornwald, and moments later is summoned. Tenants collecting the ashes to spread upon their fields have found burned bones. Master Hugh learns of several men of Bampton and nearby villages who have gone missing recently. Most are soon found, some alive, some dead. Master Hugh eventually learns that the bones are those of a bailiff from a nearby manor. Someone has slain him and placed his body in the fire to destroy evidence of murder. Bailiffs are not popular men; they dictate labour service, collect rents, and enforce other obligations. Has this bailiff died at the hand of some angry tenant? Hugh soon discovers this is not the case. There is quite another reason for murder …

 

The Abbot’s Agreement by Mel Starr

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1368 –  England

My life would have been more tranquil in the days after Martinmas had I not seen the crows. Whatever it was that the crows had found lay in the dappled shadow of the bare limbs of the oak, so I was nearly upon the thing before I recognized what the crows were feasting upon. The corpse wore black. Master Hugh is making his way towards Oxford when he discovers the young Benedictine – a fresh body, barefoot – not half a mile from the nearby abbey. The abbey’s novice master confirms the boy’s identity: John, one of three novices. But he had gone missing four days previously, and his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death: the lad has been stabbed in the back. To Hugh’s sinking heart, the abbot has a commission for him …

Rest Not in Peace by Mel Starr

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1368 – England

Master Hugh is asked to provide a sleeping potion for Sir Henry Burley, a friend and guest of Lord Gilbert at Bampton Castle. Sir Henry, (with his wife, a daughter by a first wife, two knights, two squires, and assorted servants), has outstayed his welcome at Bampton Castle. The next morning after Master Hugh provides the potion, Sir Henry is found dead, eyes open, in his bed. Master Hugh, the target of the wife’s wrath, is asked by Lord Gilbert to determine the cause of death …

The Tainted Coin by Mel Starr

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1367 – England

Master Hugh is enjoying the peaceful life of Bampton, when a badly beaten man is found under the porch of St. Andrew’s Chapel. The dying man is a chapman — a traveling merchant. Before he is buried in the chapel grounds an ancient, corroded coin is found in the man’s mouth. Master Hugh’s quest for the chapman’s assailants, and his search for the origin of the coin, make steady progress “ but there are men of wealth and power who wish to halt his search, and an old nemesis in league with them. Master Hugh, and his assistant, the groom Arthur, are determined to uncover the thieves and murderers, and the source of the chapman’s coin. They do, but not before they become involved with a kidnapped maiden, a tyrannical abbot, and a suffering monk …

Unhallowed Ground by Mel Starr

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1366 – England

Thomas atte Bridge, a man no one likes, is found hanging from a tree near Cow-leys Corner. All assume he has taken his own life, but Master Hugh and Kate find evidence that this may not be so. Many of the town had been harmed by Thomas, and Hugh is not eager to send one of them to the gallows. Then he discovers that the priest John Kellet, atte Bridge’s partner in crime in A CORPSE AT ST. ANDREW’S CHAPEL, was covertly in Bampton at the time atte Bridge died. Master Hugh is convinced that Kellet has murdered atte Bridge “one rogue slaughtering another. He sets out for Exeter, where Kellet now works. But there he discovers that the priest is an emaciated skeleton of a man, who mourns the folly of his past life. Hugh must return to Bampton and discover which of his friends has murdered his enemy…

A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

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1365 – England

I had never seen Master John Wyclif so afflicted. He was rarely found at such a loss when in disputation with other masters. He told me later, when I had returned them to him, that it was as onerous to plunder a bachelor scholar’s books as it would be to steal another man’s wife. I had, at the time, no way to assess the accuracy of that opinion, for I had no wife and few books …’ So begins another delightful and intriguing tale from the life of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon in the medieval village of Bampton, near Oxford, and bailiff of Bampton Castle at the behest of Lord Gilbert Talbot. Hugh sets his cap at the delightful Kate, who proves equally resourceful in the search for the missing books. Some very determined adversaries are out to stop him, permanently if necessary – but are they motivated by greed or a more personal animosity? Then the corpse of a poor scholar, who had tried to sell one of the books, is found in the river: but he had not simply drowned …

A Corpse at St Andrew’s Chapel by Mel Starr

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1365 – England

Alan, the beadle of the manor of Bampton, had gone out at dusk to seek those who might violate curfew. When, the following morning, he had stillnot returned home, his young wife Matilda sought out Master Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff of the manor.

Two days later Alan’s corpse is discovered in the hedge, at the side of the track to St. Andrew’s Chapel. His throat has been torn out, his head half-severed from his body and his face, hands, and forearms lacerated with deep scratches.

Master Hugh, meeting Hubert the coroner at the scene, listens carefully to the coroner surmise that a wolf had caused the great wound. And yet . . . if so, why is there so little blood?

 

The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr

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1363 – England

Hugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, he feels no real calling—despite his lively faith—and he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris, and then hanging his sign in Oxford.

Soon after, a local lord asks Hugh de Singleton to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cesspool. Through his medical knowledge, Singleton identifies her as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith.

The young man she loved—whom she had provoked very publicly—is quickly arrested and sentenced at Oxford. But this is just the beginning of the tale. 

The story of Singleton’s adventure unfolds with realistic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, romantic distractions, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion.