Category: Oxford

*Review* The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie

Posted Sunday, 27 October, 2013 by jorielov , , , 7 Comments

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The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie
[Book Three in the Muirteach MacPhee mystery series]

The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie

[Book One: A Mass for the Dead]
[Book Two: The Fairie Hills]

Published By: Five Star Publishing, an imprint of Gale Group, September 2013
Page Count: 264
Available Formats: Softcover and E-Book

Blog Book Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
was scheduled 16th of September – 25th of September 2013

Acquired Book By: Whilst following the said book tour for The Study of Murder, I had the honour of interacting with Ms. McDuffie on Unabridged Chick’s blog. That conversation moved off-blog, as I had a bit more to say about how lovely it was to find an author who was as dedicated to research as she happens to be! The author contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her book. I received a complimentary copy of The Study of Murder direct from the author herself [Susan McDuffie] in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

What implored me to read The Study of Murder: I was originally intrigued with the title itself, as I was looking over the upcoming book tours on the HFVBT website, and I thought to myself, “This one sounds interesting!”. Yet, I wasn’t sure if it fell under ‘cosy’ or ‘hard-boiled’ which is why I hesitated to find a copy through my local library! Laughs. Mostly as I tend to read more mysteries on the cosy side of the ledger, being that I have a sensitive heart! When the review posted on Unabridged Chick I started to see the story as a whole, and realised that I not only could read the book, but that I might find myself curiously entranced by the setting by which the story takes place!! There was a direct line of interest for me, as I have become an appreciator of the “Inspector Morse” and “Inspector Lewis” mysteries from the BBC! I borrowed the first two seasons of Morse, before realising that the harder hitting story-lines were a bit too unsettling for me at the time I was watching them! (Spring 2012) Which is why I decided to seek out Lewis instead, as I had a feeling his spin-off series might be a bit lighter or at the very least, easier to watch! I was quite chuffed to find that I was right! 

I had mentioned my knowledge of Morse and Lewis whilst interacting on Unabridged Chick‘s blog as I had a bit of a footing of the historical aspects of Oxford, simply based on the observations I had made whilst watching the series! There is such a large presence of historical artifacts as far as structures and buildings are concerned, that you can get a good sense of the depth of history and of time, that Oxford can afford! I was also encouraged by this review to read The Study of Murder because it’s not quite as hard-boiled as I had feared!

All of this combined with the fact the central character is of Scottish decent implored me to find out more about this lovely three book series and the author who penned it! The way in which I concluded my thoughts on Unabridged Chick‘s blog were as follows:

Prior to seeing the series, I always mistook Oxford for a quaint University towne, where scholarly pursuits were the center-focus! However, it’s also a hub for the arts, theatre, and has a youthful vibe set against the backdrop of a rather ancient site of University grounds! There is history leaping out off the screen, and inside the suspense of the story-lines, I always get a proper sense that ‘there is something more’ ‘something left unsaid’ that is just awaiting my discovery! I love old architecture and places like Oxford, who have an enriched history that is still viable and visible!

Combined with all of this I said tonight + the other day, you can see why I was properly fascinated by “The Study of Murder”!!! I completely concur with you, the characters that stay a bit in your mind’s eye and heart, are the ones who have broached into that special remembrance place all readers aspire to keep their most beloved reads!

Susan McDuffie

Author Biography:

Susan McDuffie has been a devotee of historical fiction since her childhood, when she believed she had been born in the wrong century.  She now writes historical mysteries set in medieval Scotland.  The Muirteach MacPhee Mysteries include A MASS FOR THE DEAD (2006), THE FAERIE HILLS (2011–  Winner of NM Book Award “Best Historical Novel” 2011) and THE STUDY OF MURDER (September 2013). Additional information can be found at  or

Setting into a Muirteach MacPhee mystery:

One of the gifts of having an author whose passion for research is clearly evident from the first moment you pick up their novel to the very last page your fingers touch as you watch the story resolve at its conclusion, is that your mind never falters out of the timescape by which the story is set! You’re instantly intrigued by the uniqueness of the era by which the story is unfolding inside, due to the distance between the 1300’s and the 2000’s! It’s not as though we have a semblance of a working knowledge of what life led ‘then’ would involve as compared to how we might be acquainted through living (family) histories with the 1800’s and 1900’s!

The author provides a brilliant resources page to help readers sort through the Gaelic pronunciations! Although, I have learnt how to properly say “Muirteach”, I must confess, part of what I love about reading is how I attach certain ‘endearing names’ to the characters that I discover whilst I walk through stories!

Your introduction to Oxford comes through a travelogue of notations as a young son of the Lord of the Isles is sent to Oxford to study, and I would presume, to gain a breath of the world to enlighten his path towards maturity! You’re with the MacPhee’s as they first enter Oxford, and whilst they start to settle into village life. Including becoming regulars at the alehouse, booksellers, market, and other little odd nooks around the village that bespoke to life during that time! I was mirroring my dismay with Mariota (Muirteach’s wife) at how close-minded and cold-hearted the institutions of school were towards women. Although, I have oft known of this particular issue in the folds of history, as it creeps into view whilst I read certain stories set during certain times in our histories.

One of the opening revelations that spoke to my sense of suspense and curiosity are of the parchments that young Donald was given to use for his schoolwork!? I was fascinated by how you were never quite certain where the parchments had come from originally OR even what their direct purpose was prior to being in your possession! I was quite curious how the drawings were attached to the mystery, or if in effect, they were a secondary branch of mystery!

I like that Muirteach’s wife, Mariota is painted as a formidable and independent woman! She has a strong head on her shoulders, and she’s determined to follow her will without being told what she aims to do is impossible or ill received for the time she is living! I always latch on to strong women in stories, because they give us such a hearty glimpse of the strength it takes to pursue your dreams and to be able to push through an obstacles that might arise in your life as you walk towards your destiny.

Transportation is limited in this part of Oxford, as most of it is by foot! Being that I have advanced my stamina in recent years to walking a handful of miles whilst enjoying the natural world, I can attest, that walking has its wellness attributes! Yet, I am not sure if I could get used to always having to walk to reach each destination that is needed to be visited! I think that takes more energy than I have stored to have within me! In this way, I noticed that the pace of life is set differently than our time of day now. Being a University towne, everything of course, runs in counterpart to the lectures and the lives of the students, which I discerned is not always acceptable to the townesfolk who live there. Much in the same way I think modern University townes get a bit of a bad reputation, as the ‘hobby of the hour’ is drinking ale or wine to the brink of being drunk!

The manner is which Muirteach deduces his investigations is quite unlike another I have come across since, because he has such a quiet manner about him! He calmly asks questions and investigates in a way that is befit a man who enjoys the duties of detecting but perhaps, does not fully want to explore detection. He stumbles a bit in finding the connections, but given the people he has to interact with, I do not find them to be easily questioned due to their preference for hostility.

I like the interactions he has with his wife, because it shows a marriage of equality at a time when men had more ruling over women. I like finding distinctive differences to the norm in literature, as it begs the question that despite the society norms, you will always have a few who adhere to a rhythm that extends outside society’s reach. In this way, we always shift forward and away from the darker days without liberties and move into a time of equal pursuits and stations. I think I would enjoy getting to know Mariota a bit more in the previous stories, as I was appreciative of her knowledge of natural medicine and tinctures!

These mysteries unfold gently, (which endears them to cosy) yet they provide you with a gritty sense of reality once the murders and/or violence start to unfold, (this would be the slightly bent towards hard-boiled bits) in such a way that it’s possible to read them if you enjoy either branch of mystery! For me, I was thankful the death scenes were not too elaborate and that the heart of the story was consumed by the investigation rather than the macabre of the deaths.

Review of The Study of Murder:

The story opens benignly enough with the quest to partake of life in Oxford, to seek the education of the Lord’s son, by which Muirteach MacPhee and his wife, Mariota were entrusted to achieve. I realised it could not stay this uncomplicated, but what I appreciated in the telling of the unfolding story, is the historical details that differentiate the classes and casts. As much as the inability of women to study at their choosing the subjects and topics that interest them, merely due to the inability to have the right to study such as they gained in generations past the 14th Century; in the mid to late 1800’s from what I can gather. I found it curious how industrious Mariota MacPhee became in this installment of the Muirteach MacPhee mysteries, to not only succeed at pursuing her studies but in having gained the insightful knowledge of natural medicine by being attune to her father’s work previously!

At first, it felt as though there was a simple matter of a missing girl, presumed dead that curtailed into the brutal murder of a Master at the University itself! This was followed by a second murder, which although presumed interconnected to the first murder, I was still curious how the disappearance of the first girl fit into the timeline! I started to sort out the meaning of the mysterious parchments, but what held my interest was an attempt to unearth the connecting dots that would place each of the events in line and construct the picture into a larger scope.

One thing that always struck me about living during the earlier centuries, is that oft-times the conditions of the townes were quite amuck of filth and sewage! I have always heard of the stories of Venice, Italy, being that the canal streets and close proximity of the waterways always prove to be a disadvantage in keeping the city clean: both in sight and smell. It did not surprise me in the least that Oxford, at this point in history, suffered under the same issues of Venice of today. Honestly, I do not know how one could handle the enormity of stench whilst walking down the streets! Especially as depicted if it were true that the townesfolk would simply dump out their sewage into the very streets themselves!

The mystery ended up being compounded by the delusions of a madman who felt compelled to a calling that only he was aware of existing. In this way, I nearly pitied the villain in the story, but only nearly, because what he did to secure his calling was outside the scope of God’s and Man’s Law of Order. I was still curious at the ending about the parchments, as if they were of an origin that was not yet known at the time or if they were simply not as important as I first thought they would be revealed as being!?

Thankful that I stumbled across this book on tour with HFVBT:

If I hadn’t started to seek out the books going on tour with HFVBT at the time in which I stumbled across this one, I might not have had the pleasure to interact with the author, Ms. McDuffie! I never would have suspected a conversation or a passion for research and writing would have led to my opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review! Therefore, I can only attest, that if you see a book going on tour that piques your interest, do follow the tour routes and leave messages for the authors’ and bloggers’ who are participating! You simply might find a new book to read, an author to engage in conversation, and perhaps, even, win one of the books that are given away! I celebrate the beauty of the bookish culture online, for it provides all of us a chance to interact with those who write the stories that interest us to discover!

IF you are familiar with the book tours HFVBT organises, I am most curious, which tours stand out in your mind as being amongst your favourites!? Did you get the chance to converse with one of the authors? Do you seek out books that are touring (on blogs) through all the lovely book tour companies!?

{SOURCES: Author biography, Book Cover, and Author photograph were given to me by the author herself, (Susan McDuffie) and are used with permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. }

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

Related Articles:

The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie – (

Interview with Susan McDuffie – (

Guest Post: Susan McDuffie’s The Study of Murder – (


Posted Sunday, 27 October, 2013 by jorielov in 14th Century, Amateur Detective, Blog Book Tour Find, Book Review (non-blog tour), England, Indie Author, Late Middle Ages (1300-1500), Oxford

*Forthcoming Review* | The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie

Posted Tuesday, 8 October, 2013 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie
An exciting announcement to make today, here on Jorie Loves A Story, as I have a forthcoming review for The Study of Murder, 12th of October!! My review of this lovely book was made possible when my path crossed with the authors’ through her book tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours! Whereupon, I was responding to one of the reviews that had been given on the book’s behalf, and started to talk about my appreciation for Oxford, as seen through the BBC serial “Inspector Morse” and “Inspector Lewis”. Lo and behold to my delight I heard back from the author, as I was appreciative of her dedication to research on the novel itself, as that is one of the things that I am always fond of finding on behalf of the historical fiction novels that I read! I was offered to read this book in exchange for an honest review and I am most esteemed to be given that chance!
What first captivated my attention for this story, is the unique voice of the main character combined with the setting [in and around Oxford University in England], as much as the time of the story, as its the 14th Century, of the 1300s! Its not oft you discover a wholly true and realistic mystery set at such a precise time in our history, that has a way to captivate you to read it, due to the nature of how it was written! Although this is the third book in the series, I was captivated by the reviewer’s lament that this is a series which can be jumped into at book three, and give the reader plenty of insight to where going back to the beginning would nearly be savoured a bit more than if you had read them in order! Due to this, I decided to trust that observation, and will not be ILL’ing books one & two of the Muirteach MacPhee mysteries until after I complete “The Study of Murder”!!!
As you can read more about the story’s premise on the author’s website!

Official Site for Susan McDuffie

Official Facebook Page for Susan McDuffie

The Blog Book Tour via Historical Fiction Book Tours was held between16-25th of September, 2013!

Be sure to mark your calendars to drop back here on:
12th of October 2013!!
Be sure to loop back through the tour prior to reading my review!
Remember, to always keep a keen eye on my sidebar, for current & future Bookish Events Featured on JLAS! For a full listing of each book that has either been reviewed OR a stop via a tour on Jorie Loves A Story, please consult: Bookish Events Featured on JLAS!

{SOURCE: The author, Susan McDuffie provided me with the book cover and it is used with permission.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.


Posted Tuesday, 8 October, 2013 by jorielov in 14th Century, Amateur Detective, Blog Book Tour Find, Late Middle Ages (1300-1500), Oxford