Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Devil's Disciples

Susannah Gregory's first Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew, A Plague on Both Your Houses, took place during the plague's march through Cambridge. Matthew Bartholomew, the Arab-educated physician and fellow of Michaelhouse College, survived to solve a dozen more mysteries. A decade later, the plague has not returned in The Devil's Disciples, but the fear remains - and Matthew finds himself suspected of being the Sorcerer, a heretic who claims to be able to protect people from the plague. Exhausted from treating patients suffering through an epidemic of the flux (his cure - boiled barley water - seems magical to some, pointless to others, but to modern audiences is simply rehydration with untainted fluids), he's dragged into the investigation by his friend Brother Michael. Michael, in turn, has been dragged into political intrigue involving his patron, the Bishop of Ely, and the Pope living in exile in Avignon. Add in a bidding war over a piece of property left to Michaelhouse and you've got a nice, complex problem to solve.

This is one of the better mysteries I've read this year, but much of the plot depended on knowing the history of the characters. I've read the entire series, but it's been a decade or more since I read the early volumes and some details have faded. While I recommend the book, I do not think it's a good introduction to the series. This is a series that really benefits from sequential reading.

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