The First Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon
257 pages. Maps. Glossary.
I picked this title up on a Book of the Day sale from Amazon. No doubt, the bookseller hopes that readers will enjoy this volume, and go on to buy additional volumes in the series. Curiously, the Kindle edition I purchased is now listed as not available in the U.S....
This novel is set in 14th Century England. "Master Hugh" is a younger son of a poor knight, but there is just enough money to send him to Oxford for an education. When a roommate dies from the plague, he inherits a book on surgery - which eventually inspires him to travel to Paris for a year's training (all he can afford) as a surgeon. Returning to England, Hugh has the good luck to be close at hand when a noble is injured by a horse. The grateful noble - Lord Gilbert, third Baron Talbot - recruits him to work in his service, providing him with lodging in the village of Bampton.
Who else to call than Master Hugh, then, when human bones are found when Castle Bampton's cesspit is routinely emptied? Could the bones belong to the missing Sir Robert Mallory, suitor to Lord Gilbert's sister, the beautiful Lady Joan? Or perhaps they belong to Mallory's squire, also missing?
Thus begins a sort of medieval CSI/detective case, with Master Hugh tasked by Lord Gilbert to bring expeditious justice for whoever the victim is. And in-between those days when Master Hugh is slowly plodding from village to village on a borrowed horse, seeking clues, he must also handle his usual medical emergencies: gallstones, broken bones, ingrown toenails... Hugh proves to be a scholar, a good Christian, something of a philosopher, and perhaps even a bit of a "heart stealer."
I found this book thoroughly enjoyable, a breeze to read through, entertaining and educational. I'm definitely motivated to continue the series, although the price of the sequels is putting me off for now.
The novel is free from bad language or sexual situations, but as the plot eventually involves immoral behavior and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, this book may not be suitable for younger readers.
Wargamers should enjoy the background material, but there are no wars or major battles in this book.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .