Lynn: Cindy and I are both retired and, while we love keeping our hand in with youth books, we find ourselves drifting quite often into adult books. I used to feel a bit guilty about that but if you can’t experience some indulgence in retirement, when can you? We decided it’s long overdue to start including some occasional reviews of adult books that we are enjoying.
I’m going to start our new category by reviewing a series I’ve been reading with great pleasure for many years, The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon (Lion) by Mel Starr. Adding to my enjoyment is the fact that Starr is a West Michigan author, and a career history teacher and I love finding local authors. Starr published the first of the series, The Unquiet Bones in 2008 but sadly I didn’t discover it until 2020 when I was looking for something to heal my pandemic reader’s slump. It was perfect for me! Totally engaging, with a charming and oh-so-human hero, an interesting mystery, and an outstanding historical setting. I loved it and I have been steadily moving through the series ever since, inserting it in the midst of YA, MG, and the occasional high-octane adult thriller and science fiction.
In the Unquiet Bones, we first meet Hugh de Singleton, a young surgeon fresh from training in Paris, setting up his first practice in Oxford. When an important local lord has a serious accident under his office, Hugh rushes out to provide medical assistance. Greatly impressed and grateful, the powerful lord offers Hugh a position as surgeon for his area and as his Bailiff.
Starr does a wonderful job of weaving the details of ordinary life in the 1300s into an intriguing mystery. Hugh is thoughtful, often introspective, and has a strong sense of justice. There is plenty of humor and Starr nails the dialog and setting in such an accessible way, providing a Glossary with terms. The descriptions of the meals are worth the time all by themselves. Who wouldn’t enjoy a feast of parsley bread and honeyed butter, fruit and salmon pie, aloes of lamb and pomme dorryse?
This is not a fast-paced thriller with explosions everywhere but an intriguing mystery confided by long-time friend and gently paced. Each new volume gets better and I love watching Hugh and his family grow and develop. Give them a try and stay tuned for more adult book recommendations.