Book Review: Ashes to Ashes

4 Feb

UnknownThe morning after the festivities of Midsummer’s Eve, the villagers of Bampton make a grisly discovery.

Master Hugh, Kate, and their children attend the Midsummer’s Eve fire. The next morning Hugh hears the passing bell ring from the Church of St. Beornwald, and moments later is summoned. Tenants collecting the ashes to spread upon their fields have found burned bones.

Master Hugh learns of several men of Bampton and nearby villages who have gone missing recently. Most are soon found, some alive, some dead. Master Hugh eventually learns that the bones are those of a bailiff from a nearby manor. Someone has slain him and placed his body in the fire to destroy evidence of murder.

Bailiffs are not popular men; they dictate labor service, collect rents, and enforce other obligations. Has this bailiff died at the hand of some angry tenant? Hugh soon discovers this is not the case. There is quite another reason for murder . . . .

authorMel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received an MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.

Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Naperville, IL, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.


My Impressions:

In Ashes to Ashes, the 8th book in Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton series, greed is the key motivation for crime. But just who is the greedy party? It seems most everyone has a reason for the murder of a fellow bailiff or at least a reason to cover it up. But Hugh has, besides a strong sense of justice, a stubborn streak that will not let go of a case, even when it turns dangerous.

For fans of both mystery and history, Mel Starr’s books are a perfect fit. I love the detail he includes in his novels — from what the characters eat and wear to the political and religious culture. Times were hard in the 14th century, especially with the impact of the Black Death. Society is changing, but human nature never does. Without any high-tech gadgets, Hugh manages to solve the crime, though justice is not always served. Keen observation and an in-depth knowledge of the human mind make Hugh formidable when he is in the midst of his investigation. Hugh is definitely a product of his day. Forward looking and a man of science, he has a strong dependence on God to lead and guide. Another book, Lucifer’s Harvest, is in the works, but it remains to be seen if Hugh and his family will remain in Bampton. As honorable as Hugh is, no one really likes a bailiff!

A great series and a great book! Ashes to Ashes can be read as a standalone, but those who have been following the career of Hugh de Singleton are in for another treat.


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)