Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Robert Hale
Release Date: December 2003
ISBN: 070907509X
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre: Historical Crime [1431, Oxfordshire, England] 
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Novice’s Tale
By Margaret Frazer

     Robert Hale has made yet another title from this classic US historical crime series available to UK readers, so you can hear aficionados of the genre cheering from Lands End to John O’Groats. It is perhaps a pity that they are not reprinting them in order for the last one I reviewed for this site was The Squire’s Tale, set a decade after this one, but the main thing is…here is another gem.

     Seventeen-year-old novice Thomasine is surely a candidate for sainthood, and very close to taking her final vows. It hardly seems possible that her great-aunt is the rowdy, aggressive Lady Ermentrude, who has just arrived at the nunnery with a great train of followers and even a pet monkey. Yet there she is, yelling for Thomasine to be given up to her so she can be taken out of the convent and married to a lusty young man. It is hardly surprising that there is a murder soon after, and then it is up to Frevisse to find out whodunit before the wrong person is dragged off by her old arch-enemy, Master Morys Montfort.

     Margaret Frazer is possibly the only Ellis Peters wannabe who can fashion a story with the same historical detail and feel for the period. One thing I particularly applaud is her depiction of Frevisse and her sisters as really dedicated religeuses with a love of God and their chosen life, which brings 15th century England to life in a way that mere historical minutiae fails to do. There is a real sense of their faith and how a nunnery worked; this is not merely the mediaeval version of a house party in a classic era crime novel. It isn’t an exciting story in an action sense, and if you want gore and thrills, then look elsewhere, but for a well-plotted (though not the sort of tale that could be termed intricate) novel with a few surprises in store, this ought to please. Those readers who enjoy inspirational novels ought to like this one, too, for its moving description of mediaeval religious faith.