Unabridged Chick

I'm Audra, a 30-something married lesbian. I love interesting heroines, gorgeous prose, place as character, and the occasional werewolf.
The Study of Murder (Muirteach MacPhee Mystery) - Susan McDuffie Set in 1374, the novel follows Muirteach MacPhee, a Scottish scribe who is the Keeper of the Records for the Lord of the Isles, who is accompanying the Lord's 13-year-old son who is off to Oxford University. (I will admit I jumped a bit at that detail -- what is this kid, a genius?!)Joined by his wife Mariota, they quickly find themselves sucked into Oxford life when there's a murder on the university grounds just after a pretty young townswoman disappears. (More happens, but all this unfolds in the first 60 pages.) Simmering tensions between the town and university start to rise to a boil, worrying those who remembered the St. Scholastica Day riot only 19 years early that resulted in more than 90 dead.This novel is the kind I relish, loaded with ordinary details about a world I'm not familiar with and, frankly, have a hard time imagining. (Shamefully, sometimes I land on crazy extremes for my mental images of the medieval era -- either sparkling pretty fantasy-lite or a step above cave people.)The world McDuffie evokes felt real, peppered with tidbits about the era that made it feel real for me. (I will say, the tension between the town and university made the squabbles between my own alma mater and the town it was in seem tame; funny that university towns still chafe at the relationship between the two!)Written in first person, Muirteach is a wry narrator, appealingly ordinary. Whether dealing with his wild teenaged ward, his clever wife, or fighting crime, he responds with a resigned sort of patience I find appealing -- not quite the hardboiled PI we're used in in contemporary mysteries, but certainly an early ancestor of one.  Mariota, his smart wife, trained in medicine, is a woman immediately after my heart: unwilling to spend her days sewing while her husband trots about the town, she makes lemonade, so to speak, of the lemons she's given. The secondary characters are distinct, and while I can't say how 'hard' the mystery was to solve (I'm not one to guess), it felt sufficiently complicated enough that I was impatient to get to the big reveal!While this is the third novel featuring Muirteach, I found I was easily able to dip into the story without feeling lost. McDuffie recaps a little of Muirteach's past and he often alludes to his anxieties about murder and crimes -- presumably the events of the previous two books -- and I never felt like I was missing anything.Having inhaled this one, I'm eager to go back to McDuffie's previous two novels and I hope there's a fourth Murteach MacPhee book in my future. Not quite a cozy, but not exactly a hard-boiled, this is an atmospheric mystery that might please those who love Scottish heroes, university settings, and medieval life beyond knights and castles.