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The Bishop's Tale
Dame Frevisse Mystery #3

by Margaret Frazer

     This is the third of Margaret Frazer's seminal Dame Frevisse novels, first published in the US back in 1994, available now for the first time in the UK, thanks to Robert Hale.

Frevisse's much-loved Uncle Thomas Chaucer has died, and she has to attend his funeral and comfort his grieving widow. Thomas's circle of friends included the highest in the land, such as his cousin and half-brother to Henry IV, Bishop Beaufort of Winchester. so a mighty feast is planned. But one of the guests is the irascible Sir Clement Sharpe, who has not a few enemies and is struck dead, shortly after having taunted God to do just that. The Bishop thinks that a mortal hand was the perpetrator, and as he has heard how adept Frevisse is at solving mysteries, he is keen for her to turn sleuth again.

I think my favorite feature of this wonderful series is that there are no heroes and villains, no black and white, only ordinary people and shades of very human gray. Genre fiction at its worst can rely heavily on stock characters, but this is the sort of book that gives the whodunit a good name. It seems cozy, but with an almost literary slant with its tactile descriptions of mediaeval life, real historical people and superb grasp of 15th century mores and beliefs, a book to please a large audience. For once, this book is perhaps a classic "puzzle" whodunit, but also a depiction of a family whose friends are some of the most powerful in the country, as well as a look at medical knowledge and how people revered books, on the cusp of Caxton's printing revolution. If whodunits are normally too lowbrow, read this and see how things can be done.

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
31 December 2005
Historical [1434 Oxfordshire, UK]
More at US || UK

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006