By Margaret Frazer
Robert Hale - March 2002
ISBN: 0709070551 - HB
Historical Whodunit - 1442, England
Reviewed by: Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.com
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To US historical crime fans, Margaret Frazer needs no introduction as
one of the best loved writers in the genre, but in the UK she is hardly
known. It is with great joy that I discovered that Robert Hale is reprinting
her novels so UK readers can enjoy them. Frazer paints a wonderfully vivid
picture of 15th century England that could hardly be bettered if she owned
a time machine, and her nuns (particularly the protagonist Sister Frevisse)
are truly committed religeuses with a conviction of their faith and a
love of God that transcends merely getting on with running the nunnery
or in Frevisse's case, getting to the bottom of yet another crime.
Young Robert Fenner is married to the older Lady Blaunche, who has been
widowed twice before. Marriage to a woman he cannot love is Fenner's only
way out of poverty. Unfortunately, he has fallen in love with his ward,
Katherine, and is forced to wed her to somebody else. In addition, he
is trying to settle a real estate problem for his wife who holds lands
that are not hers and which are now being claimed back by their true owner.
Lady Blaunche is pregnant again and when Sister Frevisse is brought to
the Fenner household to help her she ends up solving a murder as all around
her, a highly turbulent domestic situation rages.
As ever, the period detail is impeccable and this makes the book absorbing,
helping to counteract the fact that the story lacks excitement. It flags
in the middle and the murder seems tacked on as an afterthought to what
is really an intricate portrayal of star-crossed lovers and a family at
war in a late mediaeval setting. Not the strongest entry in a strong series
of novels, but worth reading for the period detail and description. Those
readers who enjoy inspirational novels ought to enjoy this one, too, for
its uplifting description of Sister Frevisse's faith.