Oxford University, in 1264, the savage murder of a young girl kindles a frenzy of suspicion between privileged students and impoverished townspeople. And when one of Falconer’s students who may have witnessed the crime narrowly escapes being beaten to death by a lynch mob, the Regent Master rushes to his defense. (From Goodreads)
This is a pretty short mystery to read through. Looks can be deceiving though. Despite being short, it’s packed in with some heavy duty stuff.
The setting for example. Very rich in detail and gives you a sense on how it was back then in William Falconer’s time. Add in some political intrigue, a Jewish Quarter, and some rioting and it gets pretty exciting. I really can’t get over how great the setting is. It’s so descriptive you can feel the darkness and the dampness that permeates throughout the novel. Morson also does an excellent job to stay close to historical accuracy here in this novel as well. Forensic pathology is frowned upon, and you even get to see Falconer try on a strange contraption that looks a lot like Medieval opera glasses at the time. 🙂
The plot is pretty straight forward although there is not much of a secret mystery element in it. The suspect list is not extensive (thankfully! You’ll see why as you read further into this review) and when revealed it’s not much of a surprise or an a ha! Moment. There isn’t much personality to the characters except Falconer and his student Thomas. Thomas is a particular dolt. A Farmer boy who managed to be gifted and chosen to study and be a Scholar, well, for all the idiotic moves he makes, you have to wonder how the University chose this guy to let him attend their school. He fumbles and stumbles at the worst times and always manages to get himself into some life threatening situations (and doesn’t learn from it). It was funny the first few times, but after a while it gets annoying and you want to slap this boy upside the head. (You don’t deserve Hannah’s attention, you twit).
I’m going to assume it will get better with other books in this series, and this one serves as an introduction to the series. Since I really do love the historical aspect I will stick with this series and see where it takes me. Historical mystery lovers will love the setting and theme of this book, the mystery part, not so much.
I give it a 5 out of 10.