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Literature / Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles

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A series of books written by Susanna Gregorynote  that are set in the mid-1300s in and around Cambridge, England.

Matthew Bartholomew is a physician and a teaching fellow at Michaelhouse at the University of Cambridge. Unusual for his time and place, he believes that washing your hands does a lot more for your health than consulting horoscopes, which doesn't sit well with many of his contemporaries. He's also the somewhat reluctant crime-solving partner of another fellow at Michaelhouse, Brother Michael, a Benedictine monk with a love of politics, intrigue, and good food. Together, they fight crime as they solve the murders that plague their university town and elsewhere.

The novels in the series are thus far:

  1. A Plague on Both Your Houses
  2. An Unholy Alliance
  3. A Bone of Contention
  4. A Deadly Brew
  5. A Wicked Deed
  6. A Masterly Murder
  7. An Order for Death
  8. A Summer of Discontent
  9. A Killer in Winter
  10. The Hand of Justice
  11. The Mark of a Murderer
  12. The Tarnished Chalice
  13. To Kill or Cure
  14. The Devil's Disciples
  15. A Vein of Deceit
  16. The Killer of Pilgrims
  17. Mystery in the Minster
  18. Murder by the Book
  19. The Lost Abbot (due June 2013)

This series provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Master Kenyngham, who deplores any kind of violence and will always try to find a peaceful solution.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Though it doesn't quite fit, in today's society Robin of Grantchester would count. Surgery then was the work of barbers, not physicians, and thus they often didn't have much training. Robin is notorious in the series for losing (much) more patients than he saves.
  • Badass Bookworm: Many of the fellows and the students, including Matthew and Michael.
  • Bash Brothers: Matthew and Michael are a mild form of this, as this is how the town, university, and church view them with crime-solving abilities.
  • The Big Guy: Brother Michael, possibly to the extent of a Genius Bruiser.
    • Also Langlee.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Matthew is viewed by many as this due to his uncommon (but correct) medical theories, such as washing one's hands frequently and not drinking dirty water.
    • Clippesby as well, who holds conversations with animals, but is a good music teacher, if not astronomy teacher.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Matthew towards Matilde, whom he loves. The day he finally decides to propose, she's already left town and disappears.
  • Christianity is Catholic: This is over a century before Henry VII splits with Rome, so this was pretty much Truth in Television.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Clippesby, overlapping with Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
    • Matthew's student Richard Deynman shows signs of this.
  • The Dung Ages: In use, although with much more historical accuracy, as the author is a Cambridge scholar who has done her research.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Clippesby is a male example.
  • The Fundamentalist: Father William is one. He's not a bad guy, just sees heresy everywhere, especially in the Dominicans.
  • Good Shepherd: Master Kenyngham.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Matilde, although she's retired.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Yvonne de Blaston, along with others in the Guild of the Frail Sisters.
  • Killed Off for Real: Being a murder mystery series, you can expect a good many, even among regular characters.
  • The McCoy: Matthew, definitely. Michael to a lesser extent.
  • The Middle Ages: Set in the 1350s in Cambridge, England.
  • No Indoor Voice: Father William
    • The Michaelhouse Choir could count as well. What they lack in talent (which is a lot) they make up in sheer volume.
  • Plague Doctor: Matthew was one. It nearly kills him in the first book.
  • Poison Is Evil: Used in several books to dispatch the victims.
  • Put on a Bus: In-Universe. Father William gets sent away for about a year for causing problems and helping to incite riots over perceived heresy.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Matthew could become rich drawing up horoscopes for rich patients, but he'd much rather serve the town's poor and be paid nothing in return.
  • Shown Their Work: The author has done her research, and thus the time period is show with accuracy. The novels often come with their own historical notes to explain some of the things.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Cynric, due to being a former soldier.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Clippesby, or so he thinks. The other fellows think he's insane.
  • Technical Pacifist: Brother Michael. Just because he doesn't like to carry arms doesn't mean he can't fight back. He is the son of a knight after all.
    • Can apply to Matthew and the other fellows who are in religious orders.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Matthew in the eleventh book, after spending over a year abroad searching for Matilde, including France at the Battle of Poitiers, and has grown capable with a sword as a result.
    • Michael as well when he becomes the Senior Proctor of the University and begins gathering a power base.
  • Truth in Television: There really was great conflict between the university and the town during the time period and later. Murders between the town and gown were common enough, and riots did take place.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A few are met throughout the course of the series.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Matthew and Matilde.