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I wanted to read something light, maybe a mystery, and this book popped at me from my bookshelf, ‘The Plague on Both Your Houses‘ by Susanna Gregory.

The story told goes like this. It is the year 1348 and the place is Cambridge University. One of the masters of a college dies mysteriously. It is thought to be a suicide. The college physician Bartholomew has questions on it. A new master is appointed. But before the celebrations get over, another person dies mysteriously. And the dead body disappears. Before we know, more and more strange things start happening. Our man Bartholomew investigates.

Looking at the story like this, it does look very fascinating and gripping. A medieval murder mystery with a handsome doctor investigating – what more can one want? Well, appearances can be deceptive.

It is hard to ignore the fact that the initial part of the story bears remarkable similarities to Umberto Eco’s masterpiece, ‘The Name of the Rose‘. In that book also, monks start dropping dead mysteriously in a monastery and a monk arrives and investigates. Till that point, this book is interesting. And then the Plague arrives in Cambridge, and it proves to be the death knell for the book. The book sinks rapidly after that, the story starts meandering painfully. There are some plot twists once in a while, but it was hard to read. At some point, I was wondering why I was reading the book. But I still wanted to find out what mysteries were revealed and who was the murderer, and so I painfully ploughed ahead. I speed read the last one third of the book, which was very hard for me, because I hate speed reading. I discovered all the secrets behind the mysteries and who were the bad guys. The revelations on the identities of the bad guys were interesting, but the main motivation for all the bad doings was very unconvincing and weak.

It looks like this book might have been popular with the original fans, because Susanna Gregory spun this off into a series, and there are totally 24 books in the series now, all starring our Doctor Bartholomew. I think it is safe to say that I won’t be reading any of them.

This book was a tough read for me, but I am glad I persisted and ploughed through it and reached the end. The silver lining is that I can now check off one more book from the unread books part of my bookshelf 😁

Have you read this book? What do you think about it?

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