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The Servant's Tale
Dame Frevisse, # 2

By Margaret Frazer

      After publishing some of Margaret Frazer's later work, Robert Hale are now letting the British public get their hands on some of this seminal author's earlier work. This novel from 1993 is a prime example of historical fact enmeshed with a classic-style whodunit that no true historical crime aficionado will want to miss. It is Christmas, but for impoverished Meg it is merely another time for worrying about her loud-mouthed drunkard of a husband and her two wayward sons, as well as trying to make ends meet by working at the Abbey. Meanwhile, a troupe of mummers has arrived at St Frideswide's and the nuns are obliged to give them shelter. But a wounded man has been brought in with them, and it is soon discovered that he is Meg's errant husband. Dame Frevisse is going to have her work cut out for her to discover whodunit when people start dying...

      If you like your crime cozy then you might well find that this more uncompromising tale doesn't fit the bill. This author is adept at portraying the Middle Ages warts and all, neither too obviously grimy nor glossy. Meg's grinding poverty is shown in stark contrast to the life of the nuns (which is in itself hard in its own way), while the free spirits of the mummers show how life is lived by those who turned their backs on society for whatever reason. In many later books the crime sometimes get submerged by the accurate and meticulous historical background, but in this novel I think they get equal billing. There is a good, teasing plot in here but it is a world away from the puzzle style of whodunit, as we are made to care so much for the characters. A must for anybody who likes history, mystery, or just a jolly good story.

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
29 April 2005
Historical [1433 Oxfordshire, UK]

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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005