Lucifer’s Harvest by Mel Starr

Review published on January 15, 2017.

It is 1370 and Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff in the employ of Lord Gilbert Talbot, is ordered to accompany his master to France. The French king has seized Limoges from British control and Prince Edward has decided to send thousands of men to recapture his territories. It will be a perilous journey and Hugh feels reluctant to leave his wife and two young daughters, but he knows that Lord Gilbert will need his medical skills, both on the long journey and, later, on the battlefield. His greatest concern is that he will be killed and so he is very worried about what the future would then hold for his family. So, before leaving for France, he does all he can to ensure their future security should he not return. However, the journey and the battle are not all that he has to fear; his arch-enemy, Sir Simon Trillowe, will also be a member of the invasion force. Hugh knows that his life will be in danger as Sir Simon holds a long-term grudge against him and is intent on seeking revenge whenever any opportunity presents itself. When Sir Simon dies in mysterious circumstances suspicion immediately falls on Hugh, especially as the two men have already been at loggerheads during the journey through France. Nobody in Sir Simon’s camp believes in Hugh’s innocence but, fortunately, Lord Gilbert and Prince Edward do and they encourage him to carry out his own investigations to discover who is responsible for Sir Simon’s death.

The author’s comprehensive knowledge of the history of medieval England was used to good effect to create a convincing sense of time and place in this easy to read story. I enjoyed the way in which his meticulous attention to detail created a very credible image of what life was like for people living during that time. I was fascinated by the descriptions of battleground conditions and military strategy, as well as by the information about the range of herbal remedies available for treating a whole range of medical conditions and injuries, as well as details of the rather crude surgical techniques available at the time. I also appreciated the “Afterword” as it helped to put the story into an historical context – it is always good to learn something new! Hugh is a likeable character and I enjoyed his thoughtful and quite philosophical musings about his life, religion and the situations he encountered on a daily basis. The sleuthing/mystery elements of the story were well-plotted and entertaining.

This is the ninth story in The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series and as I had read none of the preceding books there were, understandably, references to previous characters and incidences that would have made more sense to someone who had read the earlier books. In spite of this, the story is straightforward enough to be read as a standalone piece. I found it a quick and entertaining read, although I did find myself wondering at which age group it is aimed. The quite simple, straightforward writing style made me think it is a book suitable for teenagers/young adults and, if that is the case, I would award it four stars, but as a personal read I would have to give it one less because, at only 148 pages long, it was a rather short novel. In addition, I would have preferred more complexity in the story-telling.

Linda Hepworth 3/3

Lucifer’s Harvest by Mel Starr
Lion Fiction 9781782641889 pbk Aug 2016

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