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The Outlaw's Tale
Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery, # 13 

by Margaret Frazer

      Following on from The Servant's Tale (also reviewed on this site), here is another early tale of Dame Frevisse, published in 1994, available now for the first time in the UK, thanks to Robert Hale. Frevisse is accompanying chatty Sister Emma to the christening of her godchild, when the little party is ambushed by outlaws. Frevisse is amazed to find that their leader is her own cousin, Nicholas, cast out and disinherited years ago from her influential family. Nicholas wants her uncle, Thomas Chaucer, to grant he and his men a pardon so that they can come in from the cold. She agrees to his request. But a chilly wet night sleeping out in the open is too much for frailer Sister Emma, who catches a chill and soon becomes very ill. Frevisse and Emma have little choice but to agree to Nicholas' plan that they stay with a business associate, one Master Payne. However, things might have been quieter in the woods, as there is soon a violent murder.

Each of Margaret Fraser's masterly books has a different focus, which is a fun way of learning about the Middle Ages. In this one, she shows how a member of the small but growing middle class lived in a world between the more usually portrayed peasantry and the nobility. As usual, it starts off in a fairly "cozy" vein, but soon gathers momentum and ends up being anything but, thus possibly pleasing a whole ranges of tastes. In Frazer's early books, the crime and the background get equal billing, which makes for a fine and balanced work of fiction. This is miles away from the genre's perhaps more usual swings, to either mystery but little history, or the other way about. Again, this is not a "puzzle" whodunit in the classic style, but a meticulous recreation of not only how people lived more than five hundred years ago, but how they loved, suffered and sinned. Just the thing for anybody who usually disparages the genre to show how well it can be done, in the right hands.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The Servant's Tale, 2
The Outlaw's Tale, 3
The Bishop's Tale, 4
The Prioress’s Tale, 7
The Bastard’s Tale, 12
The Hunter's Tale, 13
The Sempster's Tale, 15
The Traitor’s Tale, 16

The Book

Robert Hale
July 2005
Historical [1434 Oxfordshire, UK]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005