The last book available at present in the Hugh de Singleton series, The Tainted Coin, ups the ante from previous books in terms of plot and pace. A man is found brutally beaten and dying on the steps of St Andrew’s Chapel. His last words, uttered to Hugh, revolve around a coin, which is later found in his mouth. A Roman coin of some value, it prompts Hugh to search for its origins and to see if he can discover who killed this itinerant hawker.
Others, however, are determined to prevent Hugh and so once again, the surgeon/bailiff finds himself in danger. Assisted by the burly groom, Arthur, Hugh uncovers a kidnapped woman, a wi
ly and unscrupulous knight and the involvement of his old enemy, Sir Simon Trillowe. But when the moral Hugh performs a risky rescue and takes into custody (for his own safety)one of the knight’s cronies, he finds himself at terrible odds with his master, Lord Talbot.
Threatening to quit if Lord Talbot forces him to hand over the man he’s rescued, Hugh finds himself in a moral quandary and under threat of losing the livelihood and place he’s grown to love. But as the danger grows, Hugh is forced to confront new and old enemies and even his employer and the outcome is as unpredictable as his baby daughter, little Bessie.
Once more, setting and period are beautifully captured and the characters are brought to life with an economy of prose and purpose. In some ways, the story is fairly predictable, but I didn’t find this a flaw. Rather, I enjoyed learning how events unfolded and the motives of those involved. If anything, being a couple of steps ahead of Hugh made you champion him and his investigation more.
This is another delightful installment in a series of which I have grown so fond. It can either be read as a stand alone or as the latest book, either way, there are rewards aplenty for newcomers to Hugh’s remarkable and dangerous life and those who have followed his rise and minor falls. For lovers of medieval whodunits, history and just damn fine reads.
I know there’s a new book in the wings, soon to be published and I cannot wait.