The Devil’s Disciples
It is ten years since the Black Death reaped its harvest at Cambridge. Now, in the stifling summer of 1357, an even more sinister visitor is at large. So begins the latest tale in the Matthew Bartholomew series. Told within the setting of Cambridge University and in particular, Michaelhouse College, Father Thomas, who survived the plague, preaches fervently about the evils of sin and assures his flock that if they don’t mend their ways the plague will return. But then into the arena appears the Sorcerer, who seems to be able to appear and disappear at will and keeps his identity well hidden. When Thomas is hit on the head and falls to the ground, he is taken into Michaelhouse by Dr. Bartholomew, who begs him to rest, although it is a relatively minor injury, and gives him something to drink for the pain. To everyone’s consternation Thomas is found dead the following morning. When Margery Sewale’s body is found removed from her grave, things begin to get serious. Brother Michael, the University’s Senior Proctor, and responsible for maintaining law and order, sets out to discover who has done this with the assistance of Matthew Bartholomew. Are these and subsequent events the work of an evil man or the machinations of the Devil?
As always, Susanna Gregory has a good understanding of what it was like in 14th-century Cambridge. Life was hard and far from comfortable except for the very rich. I thought this story moved a little too slowly at times with some unnecessary, repetitive explanation, but the dramatic ending is no more than would have been expected.