Tag Archives: The Tainted Coin

Tainted Coin Doesn’t Buy Much

CoinCoverLook up in Amazon or Good Reads or any other reading search engine the words “medieval mystery” or such similarly worded phrase, and you will find a legion of novels under this genre.  Because I particularly enjoyed the work of Ariana Franklin, author of “The Mistress of the Art of Death,” I thought I would also enjoy “The Tainted Coin” by Mel Starr.  Both books revolve around the conceit of a medieval physician who use their skills to solve murders.  Both are heavily steeped in the mood and history of the times.  But that is where the similarities end.  Whereas Franklin creates a fully-formed cast of characters and an intricate plot, Starr’s work is flat and his characters, especially the villains, seem like mere place-holders.  The plot of The Tainted Coin revolves around the discovery of a tradesman who has been beaten to death for mysterious reasons, until it is revealed that he held an ancient coin in his mouth…a coin that is no doubt one of many in a secret treasure trove.  The hero, Master Hugh de Singleton, sets out with his side-kick, the groom, Arthur, to solve the murder on behalf of his employer, Lord Gilbert.  The tale is told in the first person, which makes it more personal, but it fails to ever raise the reader’s concern over whether the murder is solved, the maiden is rescued, or the Abbot is caught out.  Which is a good thing, because the story does not conclude with any semblance of satisfaction.  This is a series of adventures, so perhaps this is a technique used on purpose to get us to read the next in the series, but alas, it did not work for this reader. (This book was the fifth in the series) On the plus side, the author does seem to know his history, and the story is liberally sprinkled throughout with the types of food, clothing, and weaponry of the era.  Starr has even supplied us with a glossary of terms, which was a welcome added benefit.  It is a cozy little story, but certainly no “Brother Cadfael” of this genre.  Although mildly amusing, it does not really succeed in entertaining. My advice, look elsewhere in the vast holdings of medieval mysteries for your fix.


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