For the twentieth anniversary of the start of the Matthew Bartholomew series, Sphere is delighted to reissue all of the medieval monk's cases with beautiful new series-style covers.
The winter of 1353 has been appallingly wet, there is a fever outbreak amongst the poorer townspeople and the country is not yet fully recovered from the aftermath of the plague. The increasing reputation and wealth of the Cambridge colleges are causing dangerous tensions between the town, Church and University.
Matthew Bartholomew is called to look into the deaths of three members of the University of who died from drinking poisoned wine, and soon he stumbles upon criminal activities that implicate his relatives, friends and colleagues - so he must solve the case before matters in the town get out of hand...
Rumours of plague threaten Cambridge again, ten years after the Black Death had almost laid waste to the town. Neither the church nor its priests had defended people from the disease and now they turn elsewhere for protection, to pagan ritual and magical potions. It is a ripe atmosphere to be exploited by the mysterious 'Sorcerer', an anonymous magician whose increasing influence seems certain to oust both civil and church leaders from power.
One murder, another unexplained death, a font filled with blood, a desecreated grave - all bear the hallmarks of the Sorcerer's hand, only the identity of the magician remains a mystery. One which Matthew Barthlomew must quickly get to the bottom of in order for he and his University colleagues to be free from danger...
Set in 1357 in Cambridge, England, Gregory's taut 14th chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew (after 2008's To Kill or Cure) finds the physician and independent thinker under suspicion when Father Thomas, a pious priest, dies under his care after an accidental blow to the head. The accusations raised against Bartholomew come amid a poisonous atmosphere fostered by a shadowy rabble-rouser known as the Sorcerer, whose true identity is the subject of rampant speculation. Several murders follow Thomas's death. The doctor's willingness to aid any patient in need, including the local witch, provides fodder for his adversaries. When corpses are desecrated, people fear that a satanic cult is at work. Bartholomew questions the true loyalties of some of his closest allies as well as his own ability to uncover the prime mover behind the crimes. As she often does, Gregory offers several plausible false endings, which should please traditional whodunit fans. Correction: M.C. Beaton's Death of a Witch (Reviews, Oct.27) will be published in February.