Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: "A Study of Murder" by Susan McDuffie

Synopsis:  The Study of Murder pits Scottish sleuth Muirteach MacPhee against a mysterious adversary in the medieval town of Oxford in 1374.At the command of the Lord of the Isles, Muirteach and his wife Mariota accompany Donald, the lord's surly thirteen-year-old son, to Oxford where Donald is to enroll in university. Shortly after their arrival a winsome tavern maid disappears. At his charge's insistence, Muirteach attempts to help Undersheriff Grymbaud with the investigation, as well as keep Donald at his studies and out of the taverns. He has little success with either venture, although the discovery of some bizarre and suggestive drawings on old parchments piques the curiosity of Donald and his peers. Meanwhile, Mariota thirsts to attend medical lectures at the schools, which are closed to women, and seeks a way to gain admittance to them. When an Oxford master is found brutally bludgeoned to death, Grymbaud asks Muirteach to investigate the slaying. The eventual arrest of an aged servant at the college stirs the ever-simmering discord between townsfolk and university students. The unrest culminates in riots and another senseless killing occurs, endangering Mariota. Gleaning clues from a cryptic manuscript and desperate to save his wife, a determined Muirteach tracks a wily killer through a dark and twisted labyrinth of deceit.

My Thoughts:   What a great story this was!  I really love books that combine mystery and historical fiction so The Study of Murder was right up my alley.  I was a little nervous at first because it is part of a series and I have not read any of the other books but my fears were quikcly dispelled!

Muirteach and Mariota are a great team and such a sweet couple.  I liked that he was an investigator while she had the medical knowledge; it was like a detective/coroner duo.  Muirteach is a very interesting character; he wasvery intelligent and thought everything through.  There were a lot of possible suspects in the story but he was not quick to accuse anyone without cause.  Mariota was unique in that she was incredibly knowledgeable about medicine and had a strong desire to learn more.  The lengths she went to in order to attend medical lectures was pretty neat!

The setting of the story was completely unique and gives the reader a view of Oxford in the Middle Ages.  I haven't read many books that are set this far in the past but I think the author did a great job of presenting medieval Oxford and the people who inhabited it.  The Study of Murder is first, and foremost, a mystery and myy favorite aspect of the story was that I could not figure out who the killer was and what his motives were.  There were so many different characters who had motive and opportunity so I never could quite grasp who the actual killer was and I loved that! 

I would highly recommend this book to any reader who loves a good mystery with great characters.  I will definitely be picking up the other books in the series to see what else Muirteach and Mariota have been up to.  3 1/2 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Susan McDuffie has been a fan of historical fiction since childhood. As a child, Susan spent such vast amounts of time reading historical fiction that she wondered if she was mistakenly born in the wrong century. As an adult her discovery that Clorox was not marketed prior to 1922 reconciled her to life in this era. Susan’s first published works were two Regency short stories in Regency Press anthologies.

Susan’s childhood interest in Scotland was fueled by stories of the McDuffie clan’s ancestral lands on Colonsay and their traditional role as “Keeper of the Records” for the Lord of the Isles. On her first visit to Scotland she hitchhiked her way through the Hebrides and the seeds for the medieval Muirteach MacPhee mysteries were planted.

The Muirteach mysteries include A MASS FOR THE DEAD (2006), THE FAERIE HILLS (2011), and THE STUDY OF MURDER (September 2013). The New Mexico Book Awards named THE FAERIE HILLS  “Best Historical Novel” of 2011. Currently plotting Muirteach’s next adventure, Susan shares her life with a Native American artist and four unruly cats, and enjoys taking flamenco dance classes in her spare time. She loves to hear from readers and her website is

Check out other stops on the tour here!
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1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much, Denise. I'm glad you enjoyed THE STUDY OF MURDER and hope you enjoy the other books in the series.

    I also have a Facebook author page I post a few research and writing related tidbits there each week


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