I received a copy of UNHALLOWED GROUND by Mel Starr from Kregel. I’d never heard of the “Hugh de Singleton, surgeon” series before, but now that I’ve read this fourth chronicle, I feel inclined to read the others. Hugh de Singleton is not only a surgeon, but he is also Lord Gilbert Talbot’s bailiff. I have always been fascinated by the Middle Ages, the time period this series takes place in, and so was thrilled to immerse myself in the pages. It’s a fast read at only 224 pages, and includes a tantalizing glimpse at the fifth book in the series.
UNHALLOWED GROUND begins in the year 1366 when Thomas ate Bridge is found hanging. As a man of ill repute, the people declare the deed a suicide and are please that Thomas is gone. Hugh de Singleton, however, feels there is more to the hanging than suicide. Thomas has a mark on his wrist, as though he were hung, and mud only on the heels of his boots, not on the stool he supposedly used. Hugh de Singleton believes Thomas was murdered, and sets out to find the killer. I won’t give the mystery away, but it is cunningly written, shifting through many suspects and numerous motives. Once I began chapter one, I couldn’t stop reading until I had completed the book. I did guess at the murderer about halfway through, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story.
UNHALLOWED GROUND starts with action, and never lets up. The historical mystery aspect reminded me of the middle grade “Lady Grace Cavendish” mysteries, which my cousin introduced me to a year ago. I have loved history since I was a child, and even more so now after studying my genealogy, which I can trace back to the Middle Ages. UNHALLOWED GROUND is rich in historic details, so it was easy to picture my ancestors in the setting. The dialogue is very realistic, and my mind kept inserting accents.
Although I enjoyed reading the book, a few things stood out to me. At times I felt distant from the story, and would have liked more insight into High de Singleton’s emotions. Oftentimes, the author told events, rather than showing them, and when Hugh de Singleton occasionally addressed the reader as “you,” I was jarred from the story.
Overall, I rate the story four out of five starts. I recommend UNHALLOWED GROUND to any fans of mysteries and historic fiction.