cover image Death of a Scholar

Death of a Scholar

Susanna Gregory. Sphere (IPG, dist.), $29.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7515-4975-1

Gregory excels at injecting gallows humor into this complex whodunit, her 20th chronicle of physician Matthew Bartholomew (after 2013's The Lost Abbot). The construction of a new college in Cambridge in 1358 proves the catalyst for a wave of violence, plunging Matthew, the university's official corpse examiner, into yet another homicide investigation. The victims include a junior proctor, John Felbrigge, dispatched by an archer, and Geoffrey de Elvesmere, a scholar recently enrolled in the new institution, Winwick Hall, found fatally stabbed in a latrine. The deaths coincide with a string of burglaries, with Matthew's own college, Michaelhouse, among the targets. The thieves made off with all of Michaelhouse's money, which makes identifying them almost as much a priority as finding the killer, who may also have slain Matthew's brother-in-law, Oswald Stanmore, a wealthy businessman who "loved the darker side of commerce%E2%80%94outwitting competitors, avoiding the King's taxes, driving a ruthless bargain." The plotting is as razor sharp as ever, but it's the droll wit that elevates this historical over the dozens of others this British author has penned. Agent: Euan Thorneycroft, A.M. Heath & Company (U.K.). (Jan.)