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by author "Susanna Gregory" in All Categories
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A Murder on London Bridge
Adventures of Thomas Chaloner, Book 5
Length: 14 hrs and 57 mins
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1664. There is an electric air of foreboding on the streets of London. An atmosphere Thomas Chaloner fears will only take a small spark to ignite into another civil war.... Thomas Chaloner has forged a living as spy to the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Clarendon, since the early days of the Restoration. Now, in February 1664, he is aware of an undercurrent of restlessness on the streets of London. The coffee houses are thick with rumours. There is anger at the new laws governing church attendance and a deepening contempt for the loucheness of the court. And there is murder.
The fourth adventure in the Thomas Chaloner series. Christopher Vine, a Treasury clerk working in solitary piety in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, is not alone. A killer waits in the draughty hall to ensure Vine will not live to see in the New Year. And Vine is not the only government official to die that season. The Lord Chancellor fears his enemies will skew any investigation to cause him maximum damage, so he decides to commission his own inquiries into the murders.
Having just returned from a clandestine excursion to Spain and Portugal on behalf of the queen, Thomas Chaloner finds London dank and grey under leaden skies. He finds many things changed, including the government slapping a tax on printed newspapers. Handwritten news reports escape the duty, and the rivalry between the producers of the two conduits of news is the talk of the coffee houses with the battle to be first with any sort of intelligence escalating into violent rivalry. And it seems that a number of citizens who have eaten cucumbers have come to untimely deaths.
In 1360, the Great Bridge over the River Cam is close to collapse. To repair it will cost the town and the University dear, especially if its rotten wood is replaced by more durable stone. As arguments rage over raising the money other, equally heated, differences are coming to the boil over the election of a new chancellor. While the majority support Brother Michael for the post, at least one of his opponents aims to seize it by fair means or foul. Then the discovery of a body under the bridge and the disappearance of two scholars throws a more sinister shadow over both disputes.
The Twenty-Fourth Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew
Length: 13 hrs and 31 mins
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In 1360 Edward III issues a call to arms, as sporadic attacks by the French threaten to turn into a full-blown invasion. In Cambridge, fear of the enemy is magnified by the belief that foreign agents are lurking in the area. Tension runs ever higher as rumours and ignorance fan the flames of suspicion amid preparations for war. And then the first murder occurs - of a French scholar living in the town.
In the spring of 1666 everyone's first reaction to a sudden death at the palace of White Hall is that the plague has struck, but the killing of Thomas Chiffinch was by design, not disease. Chiffinch was holder of two influential posts - Keeper of the Closet and Keeper of the Jewels - and rival courtiers have made no secret of their wish to succeed to those offices. To Thomas Chaloner, ordered to undertake the investigation, such avarice gives a whole host of suspects an ample motive for murder.
Thomas Chaloner is relieved to be summoned back to London. His master, the Earl of Clarendon, has sent him to Tangier to investigate a case of corruption. Chaloner will be glad to be home, to be reunited with his new wife, but the trivial reason for his recall exasperates him - the theft of material from the construction site of Clarendon's embarrassingly sumptuous new house just north of Piccadilly.
Cambridge University is in dire financial straits: the town's landlords are demanding an extortionate rent rise for the students' hostels, and the plague years have left the colleges with scant resources. Tension between town and gown is at boiling point and soon explodes into violence and death. Into this maelstrom comes a charismatic physician whose healing methods owe more to magic than medicine, but his success threatens Matthew Bartholomew's professional reputation - and his life....
The fourth chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew continues the adventures of the 14th-century Cambridge physician when he is called to attend to two deaths from some poisoned wine. The opening of a new and very well-endowed college has created petty infighting amongst the academics as new appointments are made. The winter and spring have been appallingly wet, there is a fever outbreak amongst the poorer townspeople and the country is not yet fully recovered from the aftermath of the plague.
Matthew Bartholomew, unorthodox but effective physician to Michaelhouse college in medieval Cambridge, is as worried as anyone about the pestilence that is ravaging Europe and seems to be approaching England. But he is distracted by the sudden and inexplicable death of the Master of Michaelhouse - a death the University authorities do not want investigated.
Superspy of Restoration London, Thomas Chaloner foils an uprising in his eighth outing. Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London, there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart laden with gunpowder explodes outside the General Letter Office, it is immediately clear that such an act is more than an expression of outrage at the inefficiency of the postal service.
Cambridge, 1354. Christmas approaches, and the town is gripped by the worst blizzards in living memory. As the physician Matthew Bartholomew struggles to help the poorer citizens cope with freezing temperatures, his colleagues prepare for the festivities. The weather has trapped many travellers in the town, including Matthew's erstwhile love, Philippa. She and her wealthy husband are invited to Michaelhouse for the main feast, and Matthew is horrified that he does not immediately recognise the overweight, sulky woman who once stole his heart.
In 1358, over a century after its foundation in Cambridge, the college of Michael House is facing a serious shortfall of funds and competition from upstarts rivals such as Zachary Hostel. Their problems are made no easier by the hostility of the town's inhabitants, who favour the university moving away to the Fens. This simmering tension threatens to break into violence when a well-known tradesman is found dead in one of the colleges.
In the dilapidated surroundings of the Savoy hospital, a delegation from the Netherlands has gathered for a final attempt to secure peace between the two nations. Thomas Chaloner, active in Holland during Cromwell's time, knows many of the delegates, including the sister of his late wife. Then the body of his former brother-in-law is found in the Thames. Chaloner discovers that the dead man has left enigmatic clues to a motivation for his murder.
In the summer of 1358 the physician Matthew Bartholomew returns to Cambridge to learn that his beloved sister is in mourning after the unexpected death of her husband, Oswald Stanmore. Aware that his son has no interest in the cloth trade that made his fortune and reputation, Oswald has left the business to his widow, but a spate of burglaries in the town distracts Matthew from supporting Edith in her grief and attempting to keep the peace between her and her wayward son.
harles II is well established at White Hall Palace, his mistress at hand in rooms over the Holbein bridge, the heads of some of the regicides on public display. London seethes with new energy, freed from the strictures of the protectorate, but many of its inhabitants have lost their livelihoods. One is Thomas Chaloner, a reluctant spy for the feared secretary of state, John Thurloe, and now returned from Holland in desperate need of employment.
It is not long before they learn that the friary in which they are staying is not the safe haven they imagine - one guest has already been murdered. It soon emerges that the dead man was holding the Hugh Chalice, a Lincoln relic with a curiously bloody history. Bartholomew and Michael are soon drawn into a web of murder, lies and suspicion in a city where neither knows who can be trusted.
In 1350 the people of Cambridge are struggling to overcome the effects of the Black Death - and with a high mortality rate among priests and monks, the townsfolk are vulnerable to sinister cults that have sprung up. At Michaelhouse, Matthew Bartholomew is training new physicians when the body of a friar is found in the massive chest that the university uses to store precious documents. While investigating, Bartholomew stumbles across a derelict church being used as a meeting place for the mysterious sect he believes is at the heart of a web of blackmail.
Matthew Bartholomew jumps at the chance to travel to Ely with Brother Michael, as it will give him a unique opportunity to study in the richly stocked library of the Benedictine priory. Michael has been summoned to the city by his bishop, but it isn't until they arrive that they discover the reason - the bishop has been accused of murder. The charge seems ludicrous, but Michael takes the investigation seriously and energetically sets about his task. Almost immediately he discovers that there appears to have been a series of unexplained deaths in the area.
In Cambridge, 1355, the colleges of the fledgling university are as much at odds with each other as they are with the ordinary townfolk. This tension has recently been heightened by the return of two well-born murderers after receiving the King's pardon, showing no remorse but ready to confront those who helped convict them. And in the midst of this Bartholomew the physician is called to the local mill to examine two corpses. It is almost a relief to be able to turn his back on the fractious town, but as always in Cambridge nothing is disconnected.