Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Servant's Tale by Margaret Frazer

Frazer's ( The Novice's Tale ) second Sister Frevisse mystery returns to St. Frideswide's, the 15th-century English nunnery, where the priory's hosteler and amateur sleuth has three murders on her hands between Christmas and Epiphany. First is villager Barnaby Shene, brought to St. Frideswide's by a troupe of traveling players claiming to have found him in a ditch. Barnaby's son Sym accuses the players of robbing his father in ambush, and when Sym turns up dead, the players are further suspect. Finally, the murder of Sister Fiacre, fast upon the revelation of a bitter old quarrel between her brother and the players, throws Sister Frevisse into despair. She likes the players and yearns to dispel the suspicion that surrounds them. On the other hand, their defense is weak, and no other likely suspects exist. Can Frevisse solve the triple mystery and exonerate the players before the coroner has them hanged?

The second book of the Sister Frevisse mystery series was as interesting as the first one although it seemed to me a much more sad story. Even Frevisse didn't seem to be as active and vocal here as in the first book.

As in the first book I enjoyed the medieval feel she gives the story. The interaction between the nuns, who have different abilities and personalities, the knowledge of the villein's life and how they were bound by their oath to their lord, the players's life and how they were immediately suspected of any wrongdoing, all that was part of what made the book interesting and what kept me turning the pages.

When Meg's husband becomes ill and is taken to the priory she starts thinking of how hard her life is and how her husband has made it difficult for them to better themselves and live in relative comfort. When he dies during the night Meg is naturally upset and more so because she recognises in her son Syms she same violent and troublemaker nature. Syms dies after a fight with one of the players which leads the men of the village in a rage to the priory to find the culprit. But while Syms murder is still being investigated one of the nuns dies also after an altercation with same players. Everything seems to point in that direction but Sister Frevisse thinks something else might be happening. It was also interesting to find out more about Frevisse's past and how she came to be as open and knowledgeable as she is.

I guessed the culprit early, more because of a lucky hunch than because of any clues she gives us and it made me a bit sad in the end that my suspicions were right. I would have liked to know more about the turning point for that person but since this is a cozy mystery and has to be kept fairly light I was satisfied with how it was solved.

Grade: B-

Click here to read Ana's review of The Novice's Tale.

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