A Plague on Both Your Houses : The First Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew Paperback
Part of the Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew series
In the tradition of Ellis Peters, A Plague on Both Your Houses introduces the physician Matthew Bartholomew, whose unorthodox but effective treatment of his patients frequently draws accusations of heresy from his more traditional colleagues. Besides his practice, Bartholomew is teacher of Medicine at Michaelhouse, part of the fledgling University of Cambridge. In 1348, the inhabitants of Cambridge live under the shadow of a terrible pestilence that has ravaged Europe and is travelling relentlessly eastward towards England. Bartholomew, however, is distracted by the sudden and inexplicable death of the Master of Michaelhouse - a death the University authorities do not want investigated. When three more scholars die in mysterious circumstances, Bartholomew defies the University and begins his own enquiry. His pursuit for the truth leads him into a complex tangle of lies and intrigue that causes him to question the innocence of his closest friends, and even his family. And then the Black Death finally arrives and Bartholomew is dragged deeper and deeper into a quagmire which threatens not only his life, but the continued existence of the University and the future of the town.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages, map, plan
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 04/07/1996
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780751516951
Showing 1 - 5 of 9 reviews.
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Review by cathyskye
Protagonist: Physician and professor Matthew BartholomewSetting: 14th century Cambridge UniversitySeries: #1First Line: The scholar waited in the black shadows of the churchyard trees for the sheriff's night patrol to pass by, trying to control his breathing.Physician Matthew Bartholomew's unorthodox but effective treatment of his patients frequently draws accusations of heresy from his more traditional colleagues. Besides his practice, Bartholomew teaches medicine at Michaelhouse, part of the fledgling University of Cambridge. In 1348, the inhabitants of Cambridge live under the shadow of a terrible pestilence that has ravaged Europe and is traveling relentlessly towards England. Bartholomew, however, is distracted by the sudden and inexplicable death of the Master of Michaelhouse, a death University authorities do not want investigated.Although I felt the book needed a bit more editing and the murderer was a bit too easy to suss out, I did enjoy the setting and the characters. Bartholomew is well worth dipping into the series again.
Review by soliloquies
Love the idea behind this, murders being committed amidst the devastating effects of the plague - but the writing style is too simplistic, which detracts from the plot. Have another in the series to read, so will see if there has been an improvement.
Review by Kasthu
Matthew Bartholomew is a physician and instructor at Michaelhouse, one of the Colleges at the young Cambridge University. His views of medicine are rather unorthodox for the 14th century, and he is viewed with suspicion by other doctors. On the eve of the Black Death, in the summer of 1348, the Master of Michaelhouse, Sir John, turns up dead. Everyone assumes it must be suicide, but Bartholomew has his doubts—especially since more bodies turn up. Bartholomew’s investigation leads him to something much better—a potential plot by Oxford scholars to undermine the credibility of Cambridge, perhaps?Bartholomew is one of the more interesting and complicated detectives I’ve come across in a long while. He’s not limited by the medical practices of the period (as we’re told early on, his training was unorthodox, too), so he does seem a bit too modern at times (for example, in addition to being a physician, he also practices surgery, which at that time was practiced by barbers). I liked the plot; and as some who studied the 14th century as a student (even wrote a paper on the Black Death), I was interested by Bartholomew’s appraisal of the pestilence. He may have been trained by eastern doctors, but Bartholomew is just as in the dark about the bubonic plague as anybody else is in 14th century England. My interest was in the effect the plague had on the medieval mindset, so I was interested to see how people reacted: from self-flagellation, to going stark, staring mad, to throwing caution to the wind and enjoying full-tilt the pleasures of life, it’s all seen in this novel. Well done, there.There are a lot of anachronisms, though: during the riot at the beginning of the book, the townspeople are referred to as “townies: (a mid-19th century invention); the author has her characters refer to themselves as “medieval”; the characters call the Black Death the “Death,” when people of the time would have called it pestilence (the term “Black Death” is 19th century in origin). Another character arrives” in the nick of time” to save our hero, hostels are arranged into “cartels,” and doctor are referred to repeatedly as “medics.” Bartholomew also expresses surprise when a tinker’s widow tells him she can’t read or write. The author seems a little bit confused by the medieval difference between a surgeon and a physician, and for a doctor, Bartholomew is awfully squeamish about the human body. Also, Bartholomew himself admits that he doesn’t know what brought the pestilence in, but he has a strange fascination with the rats scurrying about in the College…. these anachronisms aren’t obscure, a simple search in the OED will give you the origins of most of these words. But other than the anachronisms, I really enjoyed the plot of the novel, and look forward to seeing more of Matthew Bartholomew.
Review by wyvernfriend
This shows promise. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I knew more about Cambridge and how it works that I would understand if I had attended either Oxford or Cambridge but honestly I sometimes felt a little lost occasionally in the discussion of houses and how the colleges came to be.Our hero, Matthew Bartholomew is a teacher of medicine at Michaelhouse. He is a more modern type of doctor than most at the time. He doesn't use horoscopes or bloodletting or examination of urine (though the last has it's modern uses, but here is not a place to discuss the history of diabetes). They have heard that there's a plague coming but what's currently occupying their minds is the apparent suicide of the Master of the House. When other members of the house start to die in mysterious circumstances, fingers start to point. Then the plague hits and things get even more complicated.I wanted to like this but I was mostly underwhelmed. I'll probably give this series at least one more book, but I have no real rush on me to do so. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters and as characters died they felt like they almost blurred together. Interesting but not compelling reading for me.
Review by phoebesmum
A mediaeval mystery: a spate of murders breaks out at the fledgling University of Cambridge. And then the Black Death happens. I really had to force myself to finish this, 'turgid' would be too generous a description, but there are now 13 books in the series (and the author has another series too, of Jacobean mysteries), so someone must enjoy them.
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