The Study of Murder

Written by Susan McDuffie
Review by Liz Allenby

This is the latest in Susan McDuffie’s 14th-century mystery series. Scottish sleuth Muirteach MacPhee finds himself accompanying Donald, a young wayward student, to the city of Oxford in 1374, along with his wife Mariota. Against the noisy backdrop of town and gown, a tavern maid disappears and Donald Muirteach helps Undersheriff Grymbaud investigate. Meanwhile, Mariota disguises herself in order to attend all-male classes at the medical school. Following the gruesome murder of an Oxford master, an aged servant at the college is arrested, causing unrest and riots, followed by another killing in which Mariota’s life is endangered. This raises the stakes for Muirteach.

A fast-paced tale with excellent period detail and lively characterizations, Oxford comes to life through Muirteach’s wry point of view. The mores and customs of medieval Oxford do not seem that different compared to a modern university town. The author includes a map of Muirteach’s Oxford, which is helpful as the reader follows him through the case. Many twists and turns keep the reader guessing, and the use of ancient parchments and manuscripts contributes to the medieval setting. McDuffie provides an entertaining adventure into the past.