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by Susanna Gregory
Sphere, July 2008
488 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847440819

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE DEVIL‛S DISCIPLES is the fourteenth and latest in Susanna Gregory‛s Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles and there is no doubt that there is plenty of life left in the series. In this novel, a mysterious figure known only as the Sorcerer has come to Cambridge and is encouraging Satanism as an alternative to the Church. Many are quickly swayed by his appeal, even though they never see his face. Physician Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael, Senior Proctor of the University, are not convinced, however, and set out to uncover the Sorcerer‛s identity and solve the spate of crimes that appear to be linked thereto.

As ever, Gregory‛s latest novel mixes historical accuracy with fiction to create a compelling and convincing blend. She takes real people from medieval Cambridge and weaves a web of fiction around them to make a powerful tale. It is hard to believe, in our modern era, how much stock was set in theories of devil worship, amulets, exorcisms, charms and the like, but, given the superstitions of the Middle Ages, they make for excellent reading. Gregory‛s usual wit and humour comes through in her writing, particularly in some of the sardonic comments made by Brother Michael.

In THE DEVIL‛S DISCIPLES, Matthew Bartholomew faces his greatest challenge yet in unmasking the Sorcerer‛s identity and it is testament to the quality of Gregory‛s writing that she is able to produce a novel based on the actions of a protagonist who remains unseen until the novel‛s closing pages. Readers tend to be accustomed to the villain making an early appearance, but here, while we hear all about his power and his actions, the Sorcerer acts entirely offstage before being revealed in an astonishing denouement.

Once again, Gregory has produced an excellent novel. The Bartholomew Chronicles are a genuine pleasure to read and I look forward to the next installment in this series.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, August 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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