Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Traitor's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The Traitor’s Tale
A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery
Margaret Frazer
Berkley Prime Crime


July of 1450 may be the beginning of the end of the Hundred Years’ War, but there’s still plenty of treachery and political intrigue. Dame Frevisse, a Benedictine nun who would like nothing more than to be left to her devotions, must leave her abbey to help her cousin, Lady Alice. Lady Alice’s husband, the duke of Suffolk, is dead, murdered. It hardly counts as news to say that Suffolk was not well-loved by the local populace, and it isn’t long before Suffolk’s men begin dying or disappearing under mysterious circumstances.

Enter the duke of York, in the person of traveling player Simon Joliffe. York believes that Suffolk penned a letter before he died, listing the names of those who conspired with the hated French. Plenty of people would like to get their hands on that letter, including Lady Alice, who wants it to secure her son’s heritage. York, who is currently in exile, is loved by the people, who would like nothing more than to see him return and shore up the weak King Henry VI. Although it appears that they’re working at cross-purposes, it’s clear to Joliffe and Dame Frevisse that the best course of action is to join forces, work together, and find the letter before more English blood is spilled.

When you pick up a Margaret Frazer novel, you know you’re in for a treat. She has a marvelous way of weaving historical details, facts, politics, and the ins and outs of everyday medieval life into the fabric of her novels. If history texts were written in such a fascinating way, I’m convinced that every schoolchild would become a scholar. Political assassination is a bit different from the crimes that the indefatigable Dame Frevisse usually investigates, but her keen mind is more than equal to the task. Joliffe makes the perfect foil for the reverend lady, as he can access people and places that she cannot. While this is the latest in a series, each book can easily be read on its own merits. I must admit, though, to a burning desire to cloister myself with the entire series and read it from beginning to end.

Rating: 8 ½
January 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21370-4 (hardcover)


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