Without a Trace

Written by Mel Starr
Review by Alan Fisk

This is the latest instalment in a series of mediaeval mysteries starring Hugh Singleton, a surgeon with a second job as the bailiff of Lord Gilbert Talbot’s manor of Bampton in Oxfordshire. Hugh’s latest case begins when a guest of Lord Gilbert, Sir Aymer Molyns, arrives at Bampton and discovers to his consternation that his wife and maid, who had been travelling with his party in a covered wagon, have vanished; and yet the escorting riders claim not to have seen them leave.

A ransom demand arrives, for the hefty sum (at the time) of two pounds. There had recently been a kidnapping for ransom at a nearby location, so Hugh tries to find the perpetrators in case they have repeated the crime. It also emerges that Sir Aymer had married his much younger wife only to obtain an heir, which his late first wife had failed to do, and this new marriage seems no happier than the previous one.

Sir Aymer pays the ransom, but his wife is not returned, which is not only unsporting, but also puzzling. Hugh’s investigations include returning to the University of Oxford, and to a consultation with his former teacher, John Wycliffe. The mystery is eventually resolved in an unexpected and yet plausible manner.

This book is a light, enjoyable, and entertaining read. It is written with touches of stage-mediaeval English, which most reviewers would probably have condemned, but which I found rather charming.