[Review] The Study of Murder: A Muirteach MacPhee Mystery by Susan McDuffie

Title: The Study of Murder: A Muirteach MacPhee Mystery
Author: Susan McDuffie
Publisher: Five Star, A Part of Gale Cengage Learning September 18, 2013
ISBN 13: 978-1-4328-2720-5
Genre: Historical Mystery
Theme: Medieval Murder Mystery in Oxford England.
Format: Paperback
Age: Adult
Pages: 264
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Free copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Susan McDuffie, Five Star publisher---for the purpose of review.

The year is 1374, Muirteach MacPhee and his wife Mariota, chaperon young Donald to Oxford, England. Donald is the son of the Lord of the Isles, overlord of the MacPhee clan of Scotland. Donald's father wants him to attend the university; however, Donald is impetuous, uninterested in academics, more interested in youthful pursuits. A young tavern girl is missing. Her parents believe she ran-off with a customer. Meanwhile, a parchment is found with "strange drawings and words". Further, two men are brutally murdered. Muirteach is asked by the Undersheriff to help solve these crimes. The tension in the story increases when Muirteach's beloved disappears.

My Thoughts:
I love medieval history. Not long ago I was uninterested in this period. I've read a few books this year and have been captivated by it.
I felt this story gave me a better understanding of everyday life for a person living in the 1300s. Clothing worn and food eaten was weaved into the story, also: street scenes, pubs, vendors, market, town gaol, inn-lodgings, homes and furnishings. The culture and society of this period is described. The ability to read and know other languages was admired. Women were not admitted into Oxford for higher education, they were not allowed to set foot in the school building. The idea of a woman who wanted to pursue higher education was preposterous.
I found it interesting the work of criminal investigation during the 1300s. The investigator used their senses to observe the crime scene, they asked questions of everyone who'd been in recent contact with the victim, they observed the words used or actions displayed when asking questions, they found out if there were any travelers in town. All of these are still used with detectives. In our modern age we have the use of modern science and technology. Medieval times required an astute and wise detective.
The only part of this story that I'd wished had been cultivated a bit more was the end. I felt that it was too tidy, too short. This did not take away from a very good story, but I would have given it a 5 star review if the ending had been a more dramatic closure.

Link for tour:

Susan McDuffie has been a fan of historical fiction since childhood. As a child, Susan spent such vast amounts of time reading historical fiction that she wondered if she was mistakenly born in the wrong century. As an adult her discovery that Clorox was not marketed prior to 1922 reconciled her to life in this era. Susan’s first published works were two Regency short stories in Regency Press anthologies.

Susan’s childhood interest in Scotland was fueled by stories of the McDuffie clan’s ancestral lands on Colonsay and their traditional role as “Keeper of the Records” for the Lord of the Isles. On her first visit to Scotland she hitchhiked her way through the Hebrides and the seeds for the medieval Muirteach MacPhee mysteries were planted.

The Muirteach mysteries include A MASS FOR THE DEAD (2006), THE FAERIE HILLS (2011), and THE STUDY OF MURDER (September 2013). The New Mexico Book Awards named THE FAERIE HILLS  “Best Historical Novel” of 2011. Currently plotting Muirteach’s next adventure, Susan shares her life with a Native American artist and four unruly cats, and enjoys taking flamenco dance classes in her spare time. She loves to hear from readers and her website is www.SusanMcDuffie.net.

Links @ Amazon:
The Study of Murder
Hardcover $19.32

A Mass for the Dead
Paperback $8.57

The Faerie Hills
Hardcover $23.36
Kindle $2.99


  1. Thank you for your review, Annette. I'm so pleased that you enjoyed meeting Muirteach and Mariota and felt the book was historically accurate. I love research--am quite a research nut in fact--one drawback being that I could just keep researching and never write. :-) In fact, midway through the writing of this book I found an old (circa 1912) lecture on "The Ancient Walls of Oxford" and then had to redo all my city geography!


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