What a wonderful surprise this tightly written, historically very accurate and beautifully paced book turned out to be. This novel, set in the 1300s, follows the career of Hugh of Singleton, the youngest son of a knight who, while at university, discovers his calling is surgery. Setting up practice in Oxford, he is soon lured to the small town of Bamford and into the service of local lord, who asks him to track down the killer of a young woman whose body is found in the castle privy.
Unwilling at first to become involved, but understanding he has little choice, Hugh not only learns more about medicine than he ever bargained, but how to track clues and the uncanny ways in which killer’s minds operate – all of which put him and others in danger. Added to this is the presence of his lord’s lovely but unattainable sister, the fair Joan, a class above him, or is she?
Starr writes sparsely but with wit and an accuracy that pays homage to the period but without ever sacrificing plot or story.
The tale reminded me of C.J Sanson’s Shardlake novels, but without the richness of the prose or world-building, but still with a wonderful tone. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the medieval period, enjoy a quick murder-mystery (albeit when life was slower and, seemingly, fuller and crueller), then this is perfect. I’m already halfway through his next Hugh the surgeon book and loving it as well.