The Tainted Coin Paperback

The Fifth Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon

by Melvin R. Starr;

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The Tainted Coin

Full Product Description

Medieval History and Gripping Crime Fiction

Proving to be massively popular, Mel Starr's fiction series surrounding medieval forensic detective, Hugh de Singleton, gives you exquisite description, thrilling plot lines, multi-faceted characters of real depth and an experts insight on this significant period of history. 'The Tainted Coin' is Mel's fifth book in the series that takes you deep into the fourteenth century world of church, politics, everyday life... and crime.

The Tainted Coin by Melvin R. Starr was published by Lion Hudson in September 2012 and is our 20625th best seller. The ISBN for The Tainted Coin is 9780857212504.

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Publisher's Description

“… The man had been beaten senseless. His nose was broken and askew, his scalp lacerated just above the ear, where a blow had found his skull, his lips were purple and swollen, and it seemed sure his nose was broken and teeth were knocked loose. With pain and effort h opened his swollen lips and said so softly I had to ask John Keller if he heard the same words, “They didn’t get me coin.”

It is the autumn of 1367. Master Hugh is enjoying the peaceful life of Bampton, when a badly beaten man is found under the porch of St. Andrew's Chapel. The dying man is a chapman - a traveling merchant. Before he is buried in the chapel grounds an ancient, corroded coin is found in the man's mouth. Master Hugh's quest for the chapman's assailants, and his search for the origin of the coin, makes steady progress - but there are men of wealth and power who wish to halt his search, and an old nemesis, Sir Simon Trillowe, is in league with them.

But Master Hugh, and his assistant, the groom Arthur, are determined to uncover the thieves and murderers, and the source of the chapman's coin. They do, but not before they become involved with a kidnapped maiden, a tyrannical abbot, and a suffering monk - who needs Master Hugh's surgical skills and in return provides clues which assist Hugh in solving the mystery of the tainted coin.

In Brief: Eden Video Transcript

"‘The Tainted Coin’ continues the saga of Mel Starr’s medieval detective, Hugh de Singleton. On discovering a badly beaten stranger, Hugh is intrigued by the dying man’s one concern that his assailants failed to obtain the secret of a mysterious coin. With forensic attention to historical detail and medical accuracy, Mel Starr takes you on a life and death journey through adventure and romance with an underlying theme of faith and compassion."


Readers comments on Mel Starr's Popular Series

"I am a fan of historical mysteries but I've confined my reading to the 18th century or later. Only Mel Starr's mysteries enticed me to read books covering a much earlier era. I just want to thank the author for his excellent books."

"I highly recommend this series. No, it isn't like reading a fast paced suspense novel set in modern times, but this book [A Trail Of Ink], and the other two in the series [A Corpse at St Andrew’s Chapel, The Unquiet Bones] make an enjoyable read and you won't be disappointed."

"I'm enjoying this series. When I'm reading escapist literature, I'm always pleased to learn something, and Mel Starr is a good medievalist. For fullest enjoyment of Hugh de Singleton's thoughtful character, I'd recommend reading the chronicles in order: (1) Unquiet Bones, (2) A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel and (3) A Trail of Ink."

"I like this series of books. They are totally different from the suspense/mystery novels I read. This series is set in the 1300's, which requires methods of detecting and investigating than what we have today. The main character is Hugh de Singleton, who is both a surgeon and bailiff. As I commented on an earlier book in this series, I find the methods of surgery and doctoring in that day fascinating."

"Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and baliff, journeys to near-by Oxford to court the fair Kate Caxton and, is his wont, finds treachery at every turn and mysteries to be solved. Mel Starr has a gift for bringing his characters and settings to glorious life. His descriptions of the time and place, intoxicating use of language, and subtle humor whet the appetite for more medieval mayhem. Let's hope Hugh's chronicles continue apace!"

"The Hugh de Singleton series has been a great read for for me. I have read all of them that I have been able to purchase (4) and have enjoyed all of them. The unique premise of a 16th century "forensic scientist" has been both enjoyable and entertaining. The writer has been historically accurate, with explanations of times and events listed. I am greatly looking forward to the next book."

"What I especially appreciated was the language, which did not bog this book down in the least. A few other reviews have complained that the language somehow detracted from their understanding or enjoyment of this novel, but I have to disagree there. It only added to the realism, and in fact there were several instances throughout where I couldn't help but be impressed by Mel Starr's flawless use of his knowledge regarding the medieval time period. I honestly can't say anything was so overdone as to become confusing or make this a difficult read."

"These books are a very pleasant way to nibble a little history within a well-written mystery. Hugh's mentor is a real historical character; a firebrand scholar who was later condemned by the Church as a heretic. The characters and setting are well-drawn, including the unsuitable women of differing stations who capture shy Hugh's fancy. I look forward to the next book in this series!"


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.


Introducing the central character, Hugh of Singleton, a man of faith and medieval surgeon living in Oxford, England. His local vicar politely asks him to examine bones found in the castle cesspit. Hugh’s expert skills help him to identify the bones to be the blacksmiths daughter, so her unstable ex-lover is immediately arrested. But he soon discovers the bones to hold more secrets than he originally assumed.

The story of Singleton's adventure unfolds with realistic surgical procedures, amusing medieval wit, stabs of romance, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion.
“I have just finished The Unquiet Bones and I loved it – a breath of fresh medieval air.” – Annie C, reviewer.

Investigating mystery has become Hugh’s second job, this time an animal attack with baffling evidence. Alan, the beadle of the manor, went missing but was found in a ditch mutilated and scratched to death. If a wolf attacked and killed Alan, why was there so little blood? 

“This skilfully woven story is a delight to read. The setting is exceptionally well crafted. Highly recommended.” – Davis Bunn, best-selling author.

Hugh’s friend Master John Wycliffe has had his lifetime collection of books stolen from his room. As bailiff to Bampton Castle he was expected to solve local crimes from theft to murder, and so far he’d done a good job. Hugh must return to Oxford and solve the mystery of the theft, and try to find himself a wife. The third book sees murder, mistaken identity, monks, nobles, and much happens before the last page.

“No, it isn't like reading a fast paced suspense novel set in modern times, but this book, and the other two in the series, make an enjoyable read and you won't be disappointed.” – Mark, Blogger.

A locally despised man, for more than several reasons, is found hanging from a rope near Cowleys Corner. Most are glad he took his life and continue their life, but Hugh stumbles upon evidence that says otherwise.
Hugh must follow the trail of bread crumbs across the country and find which one of his friends is the killer. The fourth instalment is yet another tasty slice of medieval crime fiction.

“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, reviewer.

Enjoy married life in Bampton, a badly beaten travelling merchant stumbles into town and dies on Hugh’s doorstep. An ancient coin was mysteriously found in the now corpse and the hunt for his killer begins. The trail takes to an old enemy, wealth collaborators, and an insane abbot.

“Fans of medieval mysteries will revel in Starr’s lively blending of intriguing suspense and telling historical detail.” – Library Journal.

At the very end of the 5th book, a sample chapter has been gifted to fanatic readers to give you a taste of what’s to come. Sir Henry Burley, a smaller than average knight had made himself welcome in Lord Talbort’s residence. When morning dawns in Bampton, Sir Henry is found lying on his back with no signs of a struggle.

Everyone assumes poison, but Hugh suspects murder when he spots a single drop of blood near the body. But how did the murderer manage this mysterious feat, with no signs of an entry wound?


The Tainted Coin follows a fictional character, Hugh de Singleton, as he unravels murder and the mysterious origins of an ancient coin. But, everything you’ll read in this book you will also be able to visit. This book is much an informative history book as it is a gripping fiction.

Here are some examples of real sites the author, Mel Starr, has weaved into his chronicles:

Although the author hails from Michigan, he has done his research. Bampton is small town outside of Oxford which dates back to pre-Saxon era, in the 7th Century. Every street name, building and pathway he been plucked from the history books and used in his fictional world. Having taught History in Michigan Public Schools for 39 years, Mel Starr is as good of a history writer as he is a crime novelist.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin is the parish church of Bampton. Originally a Saxon minster, the present building dates primarily from the 12th century and is exceptionally large for a parish church. It has an attractive 13th-century spire and a carved Gothic reredos.

The Church features mainly in the 1st book, The Unquiet Bones.

Demolished in 1789, the castle was once the defining feature of the small medieval village Bampton. Mel writes about his fictional character, Lord Gilbert Talbot, owning and living in the castle throughout the chronicles, including The Tainted Coin.

Hugh de Singleton is the resident surgeon in Bampton, and has a knack for solving unusual murders. Mel Starr doesn’t hold back on the details, giving time and care over Hugh’s diagnosis of dead bodies, his many surgical procedures and his various medical observations. It makes for fascinating reading and is a unique snapshot of medieval life. 

Mel Starr is on to a winning series. Fusing history with fiction is not a new game, but Mel’s expertises in the subject shine through his writing making the reader experience the sights and smells of Medieval Britain. Reading his chronicles is like studying medieval history, lifestyle and society without any of the yawning or sudden urge to find the nearest pillow.

The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton are growing with every new edition and show no signs of a concluding book. The 6th instalment, The Uncertain Sleep, is due for release in 2013.

Other products in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton Series

See other items in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton Series

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Details for The Tainted Coin

Page last updated 19th November 2013
Author / Artist
Book FormatPaperback
PublisherLion Hudson (September 2012)
Number of Pages240
Thickness18 mm
Height216 mm
Width138 mm
Product Code4037507
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