Read The Unquiet Bones Online

Authors: Mel Starr

The Unquiet Bones

Readers’ praise for THE UNQUIET BONES

Thoughtful and curious, surgeon Hugh is an engaging character who feels totally real.

– Rikki B. USA

Absolutely loved the book and cannot wait for the next one. One of the best medieval genre novels I’ve read in years. More of the same please – soon!

– David C. UK

I enjoyed the setting, the period, the very realistic characters and the dry wit.

– Donna B. USA

I enjoyed the story, and the insight into life in 14th century Britain. A lovely way to learn history – I'm looking forward to the sequel.

– John H. UK

I read all of it in one go; it’s quite the best medieval mystery I’ve read in a while. I teach medieval history, so it’s always nice to read something by someone who actually knows what they're talking about. Can’t wait for the next one!

– Sarah T. USA

The first chronicle of Hugh de Singleton is a great read.

– Richard A. UK

I found your novel a most enjoyable read and a rewarding venture into the history of Bampton in the company of real and entertaining characters. Should I find myself in the UK again I will definitely stop for a peek at St Beornwald’s.

– Anne Marie C. Ireland

A wonderful story, which could have been ghost-written by a true 14th century surgeon. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

– Jill M. USA

A great read – appreciate the detail – and the glossary. I hope you have more to follow!

– Ross D. Australia

As a retired nurse I enjoy reading the history of medicine. This book fed my hunger and left me wanting more. I am sending a donation to help save the beautiful old church in the story.

– Patricia N. USA

This is an outstanding book and I found it impossible to put down. I shall look forward to the next chronicle with eager anticipation.

– Roger F. UK

The first chronicle of Hugh de Singleton was first rate all the way. Amusing, educational, interesting, clever, and realistic all rolled into one fantastic piece of work. I am eagerly awaiting the second.

– Annie E. USA

Just a few lines to say how much I have enjoyed reading
The Unquiet Bones
. It is going on my ‘keeper shelf’ with my other favourite medieval mysteries. I hope this book is the first of many.

– Sue G. UK

An excellent first novel. The plot is well thought out and moves along nicely, with enough in the way of twists, turns, and red herrings to keep the reader interested.

– Gary M. USA

What an outstanding first novel! Great plot, easy to read…I’ve read all the Cadfael books and
The Unquiet Bones
exceeds them all. Can’t wait for the next book in the series.

– Peter S. UK

Excellent debut of a fine new protagonist…the author shows a firm grasp of history. We can cheerfully hope that this will be the first of many.

– Suzanne C. USA

I have never written to an author before but I really feel I must thank you for
The Unquiet Bones
. I have so enjoyed this book. I am a great fan of medieval whodunits and this must rank as one of the best.

– Roger G. France

All in all this was a great first novel and I will purchase any others forthcoming from this author.

– Ruth I. USA

The book contains fascinating insights into medieval surgery.
The Unquiet Bones
is a delight to read and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

– Chris P. USA

I have just finished
The Unquiet Bones
and I loved it – a breath of fresh medieval air.

– Annie C. USA

You’ve created a real sense of place, coupled with characters a reader can like and be interested in. Hugh is a great hero and I look forward to more of his adventures.

– Maria H. USA

It was a wonderful read; I can’t wait to see where Master Hugh’s adventures will take him.

– Travis B. USA

Copyright © 2008 Mel Starr.
The right of Mel Starr to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

First published in the UK in 2008 by Monarch Books
(a publishing imprint of Lion Hudson plc),
Wilkinson House, Jordan Hill Road, Oxford OX2 8DR.
Tel: +44 (0)1865 302750 Fax: +44 (0)1865 302757
[email protected]

Reprinted 2009, 2010 (twice).
First electronic format 2010.

ISBN: 978-1-85424-885-5 (UK print)
ISBN: 978-0-8254-6290-0 (USA print)
ISBN: 978-0-85721-038-8 (e-pub)
ISBN: 978-0-85721-009-8 (Kindle)

Distributed by:
UK: Marston Book Services Ltd, PO Box 269, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4YN;
USA: Kregel Publications, PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. All rights reserved.

British Library Cataloguing Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Cover images: Getty (foot), iStock (seal and background)


On a June afternoon in 1990 my wife and I discovered The Old Rectory, a delightful B&B in the tiny village of Mavesyn Ridware. Tony and Lis Page, the proprietors, became good friends. Nearly a decade later Tony and Lis moved to Bampton, and Susan and I were able to visit them there in 2001. I saw immediately the town’s potential for the novel I intended to write.

Tony and Lis have been a great resource for the history of Bampton, for which I am very grateful.

Dr John Blair, of Queen’s College, Oxford, has written several papers illuminating the history of Bampton. These have been a great help, especially in understanding the odd situation of a medieval parish church staffed by three vicars.

When he learned that I had written an as yet unpublished novel, Dr Dan Runyon, of Spring Arbor University, invited me to speak to his classes about the trials of a rookie writer. Dan sent some sample chapters to his friend, Tony Collins, Editorial Director of Monarch Books at Lion Hudson plc. Thanks, Dan.

And thanks go to Tony Collins, my editor Jan Greenough, and the people at Lion Hudson for their willingness to publish a new author with no track record.

Before trying my hand as a writer I spent thirty-nine years teaching history. The experience gave me a greater respect for the teachers and professors who struggled to instill some wisdom into my own youthful mind. Thanks to:

Jack Gridley, eighth grade teacher of extraordinary skill and kindness.

Celestine Trevan, who demanded clear, concise writing in her high school English classes.

Dan Jensen, whose enthusiasm for teaching history was infectious, and who also pounced on bad writing.

And many others too numerous to list here.

Mel Starr
Ascensiontide 2008

For Susan

Proverbs 12:4a



For further information visit the author’s website:


Angelus Bell:
Rung three times each day; dawn, noon, and dusk. Announced the time for the Angelus devotional.

A lord’s chief manorial representative. He oversaw all operations, collected rents and fines, and enforced labor service. Not a popular fellow.

A short, heavy, blunt arrow, shot from a crossbow.

A town merchant or tradesman.

A community assembly. The term applied to the meeting and to the laws and regulations passed.

February 2. Marked the purification of Mary. Women traditionally paraded to the church carrying lighted candles. Tillage of fields resumed this day.

A castrated male chicken.

To sear with a heated metal tool. Generally used to seal a wound.

The keeper of a lord’s chamber, wardrobe and personal items.

Tight-fitting trousers, often of different colors for each leg.

A fine for having a child out of wedlock.

Christmas Oblation:
An offering due to the church at Christmas.

Church of St Beornwald:
Today the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Bampton, in the fourteenth century it was dedicated to an obscure Saxon saint enshrined in the church.

The practice of cutting trees, especially ash and poplar, so that a thicket of small saplings would grow from the stump. These shoots were used for everything from arrows to rafters, depending upon how much they were permitted to grow.

The primary medieval outer garment. Women’s were floor-length, men’s ranged from thigh-length to ankle-length.

A bowl of oil with a floating wick used for lighting.

Land directly exploited by a lord, and worked by his villeins, as opposed to land a lord might rent to tenants.

An object which caused accidental death. The item was sold and the price given to the king.

A war horse; larger than pack-horses and palfreys. Also, the right-hand direction.

Ember Day:
A day of fasting, prayer, and requesting forgiveness of sins. Observed four times per year, on successive Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

January 6. Ended the twelve-day Christmas holiday. Celebrated the coming of the Magi to worship Christ.

Extreme Unction:
“Last rites.” A sacrament for the dying. It must not be premature. A recipient who recovered was considered as good as dead. He must fast perpetually, go barefoot, and abstain from sexual relations.

Feast of the Assumption:
August 15. Marked the day Mary was supposedly carried to heaven.

Keeper of the lord’s kennel and hounds.

A bundle of strips of land, of different tenants, but generally planted with the same crop.

The toilet.

Goodrich Castle:
Rebuilt in the thirteenth century. In Herefordshire, near the southern Welsh border. Came to Gilbert Talbot through his mother, Elizabeth Comyn.

A lower-rank servant to a lord. Often a teen-aged youth. Occasionally assistant to a valet.

Merchant who sold household items such as pins, buckles, hats, and purses.

Fifteen acres.

The manorial court. Royal courts judged free tenants accused of murder or felony. Otherwise manor courts had jurisdiction over legal matters concerning villagers. Villeins accused of homicide might also be tried in a manor court.

A manorial officer in charge of fences, hedges, enclosures, and fields. Usually a half-virgater or mid-level villager, he served under the reeve. Also called a beadle.

An inheritance tax paid to the lord of the manor, usually the heir’s best animal.

The Sunday after Easter; a time of paying rents and taxes. Therefore, getting out of hock.

Horn Dancers:
Men wearing deer antlers who danced in the town marketplace at Michaelmas. Probably an ancient pagan hunting custom.

Spiced wine. Sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg were often in the mix. Usually served at the end of a meal.

King’s eyre:
A royal circuit court, presided over generally by a traveling judge.

The basic medieval undergarment.

Lammas Day:
August 1, when thanks was given for a successful wheat harvest.

Leech custard:
a date paste topped with wine syrup.

A fine for sexual relations out of wedlock.

Bitter-tasting wild lettuce was sometimes added to soups, but was best known for its sedative and narcotic effect, especially when going to seed.

The stables and associated accoutrements.

A bread made from a mixture of grains; commonly wheat and rye or barley and rye.

Small bones of the foot.

September 29. The feast signaled the end of the harvest. The last rents and tithes were due.

Ninth hour:
3 p.m.

About thirty acres. The term was more commonly used in northern England. See “yardland.”

A riding horse with a comfortable gait.

Pax Board:
An object, frequently painted with sacred scenes, which was passed through the medieval church during services for all present to kiss.

The letting of blood in the treatment of disease.

To cut a tree back to produce dense new growth.

The scientific university studies – arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

A priest in charge of a parish. He might be an absentee, and hire a vicar or curate to serve in his place.

The most important manor official, although he did not outrank the bailiff. Elected by tenants from among themselves, often the best husbandman. He had responsibility for fields, buildings, and enforcing labor service.

Rogation Sunday:
Five weeks after Easter. A time of asking God to bless the new growing season, accompanied by a parade around the boundaries of the village.

St Andrew’s Chapel:
An ancient chapel a few hundred yards east of Bampton dating to before the Norman conquest.

St Catharine’s Day:
November 25. St Catherine was the most popular female saint of medieval Europe. Processions were held in her honor on her feast day.

St Crispin’s Day:
October 25.

St Stephen’s Day:
December 26.

A swelling of lymph nodes on the neck.

Sixth hour:

A small private room, more easily heated than the great hall, where lords often preferred to spend time, especially in winter. Usually on an upper floor.

a young pigeon about four or five weeks old.

An elaborate dessert, served between courses (removes) of a meal. Often more for show than consumption.

Sumptuary laws:
Laws designed to regulate expenditure on lavish clothing and food.

Stitching a wound closed.

A free peasant who rented land from his lord. He could pay his rent in labor, or more likely by the fourteenth century, in cash.

The canonical service at 9 a.m.

Third hour:
9 a.m.

Land surrounding a house, in the medieval period often used for growing vegetables.

Removing a circular section of the skull, usually to relieve headaches. It sometimes worked!

The literary university studies – grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

A high-ranking servant to a lord. A chamberlain, for example.

A priest who serves a parish but is not entitled to its tithes.

A non-free peasant. He could not leave his land or service to his lord, or sell animals without permission. But if he could escape his manor for a year and a day he would be free.

Wear the willow:
“Weeping” willow was a symbol of sorrow. To wear the willow was to grieve. People did actually wear a sprig of willow to indicate their sorrow.

The two or three days of work per week owed to the lord by a villein.

Pentecost; seven weeks after Easter Sunday.

Thirty acres. Also called a virgate. In northern England often called an oxgang.

Other books

Frostborn: The Undying Wizard by Jonathan Moeller
Abby the Witch by Odette C. Bell
Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo
Toothless Wonder by Barbara Park
Dragonkin by Crymsyn Hart
Giving It All by Arianna Hart
Night Magic by Susan Squires
Run by Michaelbrent Collings