I stumbled across this title, The Unquiet Bones , by accident–I’m not sure now where I read about it—and decided to request a copy because it sounded interesting. I was sort of nonplused when it came and set it aside for awhile. I picked it up about a week ago (the due date was coming up) and I’m really glad I did. It turned out to be one of the best historical mysteries I’ve read in awhile.
Hugh de Singleton is the fourth son of a minor knight. His oldest brother will inherit the family holdings and his father has decided that since he has shown scholarly aptitude, he will attend university. Once he has finished his degree, Hugh decides not to take holy orders, but to continue his studies. He inherits a surgery text from a friend who dies of the plague and, after reading it, decides that he will pursue surgical studies in Paris. Upon returning to England, he sets up shop in lodgings in Oxford in hopes of acquiring a clientele.
He is in luck. When Lord Gilbert is kicked by his groom’s horse in the street outside of his lodgings, Hugh is called upon to treat him. His treatment is a success and Lord Gilbert invites him to set up his practice in the village of Bampton, near Lord Gilbert’s castle. When bones are discovered by one of the villeins cleaning out the cesspit and it is realized that they are human, Hugh is called upon to examine them to see if he can discover to whom they might belong and how the poor soul might have met his end. His end because Sir Robert Mallory had disappeared shortly after Easter. He left Bampton Castle after a visit and was never seen again. But the bones are not those of a man and the plot thickens as Hugh is drawn further into the mystery surrounding the slight bones of a young girl who has been killed by a knife.
The description almost sounds like CSI:Bampton, but it doesn’t come across like that at all. The author is a student of medieval surgery and medieval English and it shows. The characters are well-drawn, and the situations and language ring true. Things can be murky and cold and dark because that’s the way things were in medieval England. This is post plague, so the countryside is somewhat depopulated and the forest and weeds are starting to reclaim some of the land.
In case you have forgotten (or never knew) some of the terminology there is a glossary in front so that the author can maintain the feel of the time period and take his readers along with him. This is a very well done book and the mystery kept me guessing. According to Amazon, the second in the series is coming out in October and I am waiting to reserve my copy to find out what will happen to the folk of Bampton.
If you would like to meet Hugh de Singleton, just click on the title to request your copy. You won’t regret it if you are a fan of historical fiction.