The Tainted Coin (book review)

The Tainted Coin by Mel Starr

The Tainted Coin

By Mel Starr

An ancient Roman coin in the mouth of a dead stranger on the church doorstep is all it takes to launch this medieval adventure in the continuing saga of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff of Bampton, England.  This is the fifth book in this engaging series of historical fiction, continuing the author’s fine display of first person narrative, old English realism, and challenging ethical conundrums.

The murder investigation leads Hugh throughout the various villages of rural Oxfordshire, following clues that put him hot on the trail of the perpetrators early on in the story.  The plot takes a sudden turn, however, when Hugh inadvertently frees a beautiful hostage, illegally harbors a fugitive, and rescues a widow with her young children from certain danger.  How could all these events possibly be linked together?

Bampton castleSO WHAT?

Hugh is married now, with a young child, adding yet another layer of complexity in his loyalties to his God, His family, and his boss, the lord of the manor.  Solving this unique murder ultimately provides him the opportunity to provide justice for the oppressed, though not without challenging the status quo in choosing God’s law over man’s.  Thanks to the first person perspective of this tale, the reader is able to reason through the ethical dilemmas right alongside with Hugh.

On the downside, our hero makes some rather rash and disappointing decisions in the course of performing his duties, diverting his mission to such an extent that solving the murder becomes secondary to other concerns, leaving the reader with a somewhat dissatisfying ending.


Mel Starr

4 stars out of 5

4 out of 5 bowls of egg leech


Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received an MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.  Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Naperville, IL, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.”

(from his bio)


I was privileged to review an earlier book in this series, a jumped at the opportunity from Kregel Publications to do so again.


A Trail of Ink, also by Mel Starr


Do you ever have moments when you long for the simpler, pastoral life of medieval times?


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