A Bone of Contention, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Cambridge, 1392. Matthew Bartholomew, physician to Michaelhouse College, is called to examine some mysterious bones found in the King's Ditch. Next day he is called to the Ditch again: a student has been found dead there. Meanwhile, there is unrest in the town, and the strange disappearance of Dominica, former lover of the dead student and daughter of Waterstone, the well-known Principal of a Cambridge student hostel. Are these events connected? Then a skeletal hand is found in the Ditch, hailed by townsfolk as the final remains of local martyr Simon d'Ambrey, and hence a holy relic. When Bartholomew finds that the hand is wearing a ring apparently identical to a pair that were worn by Dominica and her ex-lover, and now missing, he knows that his investigative skills are called for.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 512 pages, map
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9780751520224



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Historical mystery, about the same time as Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries, but in some ways struck me as anti-cadfael - the setting was gritty, grimy, clear sense of the period's stifling attitudes, general unrest and grinding poverty, odd inaccurate medical theories and lack of hygiene. Very different from Peters' nice clean wholesome monastery and helpful herbalist!And yet, it wasn't _grim_. The characters belonged to their times and didn't expect different, and lived their lives as best they could, mostly cheerfully, dealing with the ordinary (to them) stuff without any sense that it made them worse off than a twentieth-century person. Outdated attitudes, but courage and compassion, evil and pettiness, and a real lust for the best parts of living.Too many deaths, though, I felt the actual plot (as opposed to character or setting) was rather getting away from her.

Review by

 Another complicated mystery, with multiple strands that are mixed up together. There's tension between the town and university, with riots in Cambridge. The atmosphere isn't helped by the drainage ditch being dredged. Out of the slime, an ambitious college principle dredges a relic of a local martyr. And that's only the start. You do worry that Bartholomew is far to easily lured from college on a mercy mission and promptly attacked, it seems to have happened in each book so far. But he and Brother Michael are an engaging detectives and not being blessed with amaxing intellect does make him more human than a lot of fictional detectives. Intriguing and, as it's been a while since I've read this one, I had no idea what the solution was!

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