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The Murderer's Tale
Dame Frevisse Mystery, #5
Margaret Frazer

Robert Hale
19 January 2012 / ISBN: 9780709095965
Historical Mystery / 1435 Oxfordshire, England
Amazon US - UK

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde

At St Frideswide's Nunnery Dame Frevisse is chafing under the new rule of Prioress Alys. Dame Claire confesses that she vowed to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of their abbey's saint if the previous prioress was spared pain in dying and Frevisse is chosen to accompany her on the journey. En route they fall in with another group of travellers, the wealthy Lionel Knyvet, his brother Giles and Giles's wife Edeyn. They are all staying at the same place, the manor house of Minster Lovell where the nuns also have some abbey business to transact. Lionel is an epileptic at a time when such an affliction was thought to be possession by a demon and is constantly on pilgrimage. Things are going to be brought to a head during their stay and soon Frevisse has another murder to solve.

I've read a lot of historical mysteries but this is one series that is always a treat to encounter. For one thing the author has an encyclopedic knowledge of her period, and her descriptions of daily life interspersed with the political situation are as close to getting under the skin of the period as you can get without a time machine. For another she imbues her characters with realistic personalities and never falls into the usual historical novelist's trap of forgetting how totally religion was a part of every aspect of life. This time we know who the murderer is, which is not a type of detective story I usually favor but in Ms. Frazer's capable hands it becomes a tale of human evil which is every much a form of "possession" as the epilepsy. There are lyrical descriptions of spring days spent in a flower bedecked garden that conjures up images of tapestries, and as with all good series a chance to discover what the various series characters have been up to. First published in the US in 1996, this is the first UK printing and it is long overdue. I hope that Robert Hale will reprint the entire series and allow UK readers the chance to read the work of a mistress of the craft of writing. Not to be missed.

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

Reviewed 2012