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The Abbot's Agreement

A new and disturbing puzzle for the medieval surgeon-turned-sleuth. Master Hugh de Singleton is making his way toward Oxford when he discovers the corpse of a young Benedictine not half a mile from the nearby abbey. The abbey's novice master confirms the boy's identity... Read More


Item # 1555686

A new and disturbing puzzle for the medieval surgeon-turned-sleuth.

Master Hugh de Singleton is making his way toward Oxford when he discovers the corpse of a young Benedictine not half a mile from the nearby abbey.

The abbey's novice master confirms the boy's identity; it is John, one of three novices. He had gone missing four days previous, and yet his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death--the lad has been stabbed in the back. To Hugh's sinking heart, the abbot has a commission for him.

With realistic medical procedures of the period, droll medieval wit, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion, the seventh in the chronicles of Hugh de Singleton will delight medieval history and crime fiction fans alike.
  • Product type: Book
  • Format: Softcover
  • Release Date: Nov 27, 2014
  • UPC: 9781782641094
  • Volumes/Discs: 1
  • Pages: 252
  • Publish Date: Oct 8, 2014
  • Language: English
  • Audience Age Maximum: 0
  • Audience Age Minimum: 0
  • BISAC: "FIC042030"
  • ISBN: 1782641092

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A great medieval mystery by Carole on 4/30/2015

What an interesting and unusual story! I have long been a fan of British mysteries and am delighted to discover the medieval mysteries of Mel Starr. Seventh book in the Hugh de Singleton series, The Abbot's Agreement is centered around Eynsham Abbey in the fall of 1368. It's a world of castles, knights, monks, heresy, creative doctoring, and my favorite type of detection methods - questioning and observation. This is not an action-packed, fast-paced novel, but rather a steadily moving drama set during the 14th century, and all these elements are fleshed out by a narrative that contains some profound insight. Strong secondary characters - Abbot Thurstan, Brother Gerleys, and Arthur - added much richness. The Abbot's Agreement fascinated me and completely held my attention.

Master Hugh, surgeon and bailiff to Lord Gilbert Talbot, is a husband and father, with another child on the way, and we don't actually see Lord Talbot in this volume. The Abbot's Agreement stands alone, although I think reading the previous books would provide a deeper understanding of characterization and setting. These opening lines create a great sense of atmosphere . . .

"My life would have been more tranquil in the days after Martinmas had I not seen the birds. . . . It is said that curiosity killed the cat. It can prove hazardous for meddlesome bailiffs as well."

While I enjoyed the mystery element, this book's strength was the picture beautifully conveyed of medieval life in England. Not only does Mel have a wealth of knowledge and obvious love for those times, but he is able to communicate it in a way that draws readers in. With a lack of modern technology, medical practice and criminal detection were greatly challenged, yet triumphs occurred in ways that would surprise us today.

There's another strength as well, and that is the spiritual insight that flowed throughout and gives cause for reflection. For example, in contrast to today - when Bibles are easily obtained, yet often gather dust - Master Hugh greatly desired his own copy of the Scriptures, and that's the meaning behind the title. In return for investigating the murder of a young novice, Abbot Thurstan promised to have scribes prepare a Bible for him, in the time between Martinmas (November 11) to St. John's Day (June 24).

But I think my favorite part was when Master Hugh recited Scripture passages with a dying Abbot Thurstan - Scriptures about being forgiven and "cleansed from all unrighteousness" . . . presented "holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight." These words that bring us so much comfort and assurance were heretical thinking in those days, as evidenced in the words of Brother Gerleys: "Who will give us lands and shillings to pray for their souls if there is no purgatory from which they seek release?"

I enjoyed The Abbot's Agreement very much and hope to read more of this series soon. Recommended, especially to those who enjoy historical mysteries.

Thank you to Kregel for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Another traipse into the adventures of 1300s England and forensic "science" by Vera on 2/9/2015

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Mel Starr's previous books in the chronicles of Hugh de Singleton.

Just what is this newest medieval novel about surgeon and bailiff Hugh de Singleton really about?
--Murder most foul and a whodunit in the Abby
--Heresy abounding in separate quarters
--Life in the monastery in all its mundane glory
--Slow, plodding life of the 1300s and feasting on wheaten bread and foul ale
--Desire for a Bible of his own leads to an agreement
--A tale of forensic crime solutions before there was forensic science

What are my thoughts on it?
--I found it to be a bit more plodding than the usual Mel Starr books but life was plodding back in the 1300s. --I usually find the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton to be nice change-of-pace reads and this one was just that.
--I found the vocabulary indicative of the time in which the story was set (without really going with the actual language and spellings of the time).
--I found the details a bit confusing and erroneous – the foul murder took place on a moonless or moonlit night?
--I found the plot and subplot (different issues to solve) interesting.
--I enjoyed it though do admit that it took me longer to read than normal for a Mel Starr book. Was this my problem or one with the book itself?
--I liked that the title The Abbot’s Agreement is multilayered and which is not evident until nearly the end of the book.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publication on behalf of Lion Hudson in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.


I cannot get enough of Mel Starr! His books are amazing! Sometimes writer’s books will be extremely similar in many ways, but not Mr. Starr. Each book I have read is so varied in the plot and characters, plus there is always something new I learn historically. It is like historical lessons about the 1300’s and super entertaining murder mysteries rolled into one!
I am absolutely fascinated by Master Hugh’s practice of medicine during that time, and also challenging aspects of day to day living. It is obvious the author has done his research with his vivid descriptions and the detailed imaginary he brings to life through his writing. I appreciate especially how clean and wholesome his books are.
Master Hugh plans to make a quick trip from his home in Bampton to Oxford to buy himself Bible he had long wanted. The only other Scripture he had was the book of John which he had copied by hand. He had 30 shillings with which to purchase it which would be the equivalent to over $800 today! Incredible considering most homes now have a minimum of 1 -3 Bibles. Arthur, the Sylvester Stallone of grooms, was going with him for protection. Hugh especially wanted to hurry back as his wife was expecting their second child soon.
As they near an Abbey his attention is drawn to a large group of noisy birds feasting on something. He and Arthur stop to investigate and make a gruesome discovery. A novice from the Abbey lay dead and his face destroyed beyond recognition by the hungry fowl. After reporting the body to the Abbey, Hugh is ready to continue on his journey. Abbot Thrustan is weak and frail, and very persuasive. Knowing of Master Hugh’s skills he asks him to find the murderer. He offers to pay for and send a midwife to stay with Hugh’s wife Kate and also to give him a Bible for free. The latter Master Hugh and his pocket book can’t refuse.
While medicine, science and crime investigation in this era are minimal, Hugh Singleton more than compensates by making astute use of every faculty at his disposal. Even upon finding the body he was paying close attention to clues others would miss. He was a shrewd judge of character and could discern body language and attitudes of others with astonishing accuracy. His keen sense of humor and sharp mind bring the story even more to life.
Anxious to collect his Bible and return home, he is discouraged by the lack of clues and the few leads he does have coming to a dead end. I even shared in his disappointments and even began to wonder how he would ever solve this murder. As his investigation progresses he not only finds himself and Arthur in danger, but uncovers even greater hidden crimes. Every time I was sure I knew who was guilty, new evidence would appear and the plot would change!
Until reading this book I knew little about the lives of monks in medieval England. I found it quite intriguing and never realized how restrictive and ritualistic their abbey life was. One of my favorite parts of the book was Hugh’s primitive practice of medicine; it is always a different medical situation. Once again I was surprised the striking difference between healing then and today. I can’t imagine suffering as people did with so little to help them.
This book is filled with excitement, mystery, surprises, history, and faith. An exceptional book written by one of the best historical fiction writers of our time!
I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

My favorite one so far! by Sarah on 2/6/2015

As I sit and look at my bookshelves I see all the Bibles that I own, KJV, ESV, NKJV, NIV and so on so when Hugh’s latest chronicle starts it reminds it hasn’t always been so easy or inexpensive to own a Bible – as Hugh is setting out to buy at least a New Testament and if not that, then at least those written by Paul. Of course, he and Arthur become side tracked with the sighting of birds overhead which tells Hugh that there is something dead, he sets off to find a young novice who has been murdered. The Abbot makes a deal – find who did the murder and Hugh will get his Bible as payment. I’ve read the others (not the 1st and 2nd, yet) in this series and I think this has been my favorite so far, it was truly a page turner and kept me up late reading, which kept my mind from other things. The whodunit isn’t easily figured out, at least it wasn’t for me, and I enjoyed that – just when I thought Hugh and I had figured it out there was another twist to the plot that threw us both off course.

Of course I also enjoy the historical aspect of the story and the medical complexities that met Hugh as he traveled around trying to find a murderer. Hugh is ahead of his time in things like letting wounds open to the air instead of keeping them covered for best healing. Of course, there is the descriptions of food, which at times doesn’t add to the plot but I think makes the story much more realistic.The other part of the book I enjoyed was the discussion between the dying Abbot (who knew one could die from a broken hip) and Hugh about purgatory and why would we need that to cleanse us when Christ already completed the work? This of course has the archdeacon labeling Hugh a heretic and he is arrested. I won’t give away much more about the book because honestly if you enjoy medieval history, historical or just a good clean (meaning no cussing, s**, etc) mystery then this is a great book.

**I was given a copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

Glad I read this one, but I will not continue... by Sarah on 2/4/2015

The Abbot’s Agreement is from Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. Actually it is the 7th book, which I did not realize. (I try not to choose a book from the middle of a series. I feel that there is normally a sense of loss not starting from the beginning with the characters and seeing them grow through their experiences.) I did not have time to read the first six before ;) , but the book worked out as my first book from The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. There was a few small references that I assumed were from Master Hugh’s previous adventures written in the other chronicles.

The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton series is set in medieval England with the main character of Hugh de Singleton, a surgeon and bailiff to Lord Gilbert. The Abbot’s Agreement starts out with Hugh traveling to Oxford to purchase a Bible. He travels with Arthur, a groom in the service of Lord Gilbert. (From my reading of this book I also assume that Arthur has been involved in the other adventures.) The body of a young novice from the nearby Eynsham Abbey is found on their journey and changes Hugh’s plans dramatically. The abbot from the abbey asked Hugh to look in to the crime in exchange for the brothers to make him his Bible. …Is this agreement worth it?!

Mel Starr includes a glossary at the beginning of the book just in case his readers aren’t familiar with the medieval terms. I read through it before I started the novel to give me a little bit of background information. I have not read any books set in the medieval times! However, I found it very tedious to go back and forth while I was reading the story. Therefore I stopped using it for the most part and I was able to follow the story and enjoy it. I did get lost in some of the titles and names.

I enjoyed seeing how Master Hugh investigated a crime in this time period, without all the technology of today. My favorite part of the book was the humorous exchanges between Hugh and Arthur when Arthur “helped” a with a couple guys who weren’t as cooperative!! While it was an interesting and entertaining read, I’m not sure I will check out the beginning of the chronicles. Maybe later…right now I would rather read a book in a setting that is easier for me to step into as a reader.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Activate Your Faith - Phillipians 4:13
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