This review is part of my Mystery Monday Meme.
At any given time in a large, crowded town like Cambridge (1357), any number of problems can arise for the Senior Proctor of the university and his Corpse Examiner, and the week leading up to Trinity Eve is no exception. Between stolen black sheep (Biblical significance?) from Bene’t College, a bidding war to buy Sewale Cottage (recently left to Michaelhouse), witches’ covens sprouting up in churches, Franciscan priests ranting at the townspeople about the return of the plague, corpses being dug out of their graves and tossed aside, and one devil-worshipper known only as The Sorcerer who is vowing to end the dry spell and take power, Brother Michael and Dr. Matthew Bartholomew have their hands full. Accustomed to townspeople being at odds with the university scholars, they find it strangely unsettling to see knots of people gathering in the market square in groups that combine both scholars and merchants along different lines — those who support the Sorcerer, and those who support the traditional church. Thieves and murderers along the Huntingdon Way keep Sherif Tulyet busy out of town, while patients with the flux due to an unusually dry, hot June keep Matthew running all hours of the day and night, and priests are being murdered with few clues left behind for Brother Michael. When Michaelhouse’s Brother Carton is murdered in the chapel at Barnwell Priory, Michael and Matthew have to take a closer look at recent deaths thought to be of natural causes, and the range of suspects widens as people begin to accuse those they do not like without good reason; chief among these is Matthew himself, who has garnered many enemies due to dead patients, unorthodox practices, and his love of anatomy.
The Devil’s Disciples is number fourteen in the Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew, and once again, Susanna Gregory has woven together a masterly plot around historical facts about this medieval university town. There is no end of suspects from both the town, and the university itself, where bigotry runs rampant, bellowing sermons are driving people away from the church, and greed rears its ugly head in the most unlikely places. Add to this, a bishop whose henchmen wreak tyranny over the poor and helpless, and, like Matthew and Michael, you will be perplexed and somewhat disillusioned as you try to unravel, or connect, the clues to the various puzzles. The identity of The Sorcerer will surprise you at the end just as it did Brother Matthew. * * * * *
Susanna Gregory’s mysteries are available at Amazon.