Review of ‘The Lost Abbot’ by Susanna Gregory


The+Lost+Abbot“The Greedy Abbot” is perhaps a more accurate title for this one given the events that take place in Peterborough. This latest installment by the ever-superb Susanna Gregory has Matt and Michael hotfooting (or, perhaps, waddling quickly in the latter’s case) out of Cambridge on a seven day mission to locate Abbot Robert who’s been missing for a month with Pyk, the town’s only physician. The deadline has been arbitrarily imposed because Michael feels he needs to get back to personally write the charter for the new Winwick Hall before it causes a right ruckus in Cambridge. This allows Gregory to impart a sense of haste as the motley cavalcade of our sleuthing duo, Langelee, William, and Clippesby arrive just in time to find two hospitals in Peterborough vying for wealth using the dubious relics of either a 143 year old man (Kirwell) or the corpse of a very evil, very dead burglar (name of Lawrence de Oxforde) both of whom apparently grant miracles. Both are also linked because it was Kirwell to whom Oxforde bequeathed a prayer before being hung, Kirwell who was struck by a shaft of light from heaven as he knelt by the latter’s grave (all of this takes place in the Prologue).
Of course, such is nonsense but a swift bashing in of the unsavoury Joan’s head as Matt and Michael arrive in town leads to a litany of murders greater than number of days to solve them. Who could possibly be responsible? The list is long, starting with the Unholy Trinity of Nonton, Ramseye and Welbyrn – the latter two old foes of Matt after he publicly challenged them whilst a student. He even had a fight with Welbyrn. Of course, the missing abbot has brought out the political scheming of both these three and many others: Reginald the Cutler, Prior Yvo, the unctuous Botilbrig, the soft-handed Spalling (whose incendiary proclamations against the rich lead to a near village pitchfork fight on the road), the pusillanimous Lullington, the innocuous Appletre and Henry, and lastly, but by no means least, Aurifabro – commissioned to make a patten which has now been stopped given the absence of the abbot – general enemy of most of the town and clergy.
It’s a series of murders, pure and simple; the common thread is that of personal gain, the spitefulness of some coupled with the hidden motives of others is what makes the mystery intriguing. Finally, Gregory gives us some hope with Mathilde. Matt knows she lives, knows she is trying to find the necessary money to keep them both so he can continue aiding the poor. It’s something those who follow Gregory have craved for some novels now and we may finally get to see them together a few novels from now.
As ever I could extol the literary powers of Gregory for a long time, but endless praising reviews seem repetitive to me. It is as brilliant as ever, so brilliant in fact that I’ve got to pick up Gregory on one point and, given it’s the first in nearly thirty novels, made it stand out, a rarity indeed. She has Bartholomew unhappy with William:
“Bartholomew was not happy with William for volunteering his services in so cavalier a manner”.
The word cavalier wasn’t around for another hundred-plus years so doubtful he’d think that. Tiny, but given Gregory’s skills, it was like finding a plain needle in a golden haystack. I hope Gregory writes another forty novels. Matt deserves it, her readers crave it.



Categories: Book Reviews, Matthew Bartholomew

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