Temptation of Adam and Eve, close-up of the southern part of the facade portal of the cathedral Notre-Dame in Amiens, France
Photo Credit: Guillaume Piolle

Medieval Book Reviews !
Medieval Mysteries
The Apostate's Tale:
(A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery)
The Apostate's Tale: A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery by Margaret Frazer
by Margaret Frazer
The return of a long disappeared nun.

Spring of 1452 brings fretful weather but nothing as worrisome as Sister Cecely, a nun who long disppeared from Saint Frideswide's priory suddenly returns nine years later with her illegitimate son.  Dame Frevisse serves as the hosteler in care of guests.  As the nuns prepare for easter, Cecely's presence tries the patience and spiritual practice of the nuns.  Followed to the priory by men from her past, Cecely's postion becomes even more tenuous.  When suddenly sickness turns two men ill, Dame Frevisse sets about investigating the illness and whether this might actually be a case of attempted murder.  Who would want to kill these men whose positions are at such odds with one another?

THE APOSTATE'S TALE is a mystery that will medieval enthusiasts feel right at home.  The historical details center around the theology and the daily lives of the nuns in their attitudes, inner thoughts and the practice of the Daily Office as the center of their day.  Although the answer to the mystery itself is fairly obvious, the thrill of the mystery centers upon Margaret Frazer's look into the historical and spiritual details that lead up to the mystery.  Margaret Frazer's juxtaposition of Dame Frevisse and Sister Cecely offers an insightful look into the world of women in the Middle Ages through a medieval perspective.  Although modern readers might not hold to the medieval view of apostacy, Margaret Frevisse does an excellent job at making this idea accessible to new readers and medieval junkies alike.  Without resorting to a preachy tone as part of the narrative, the idea of apostacy and its ramifications unfild as part of the plot and characterization.  Characterization gives this mystery a wonderful depth, not only in the contrast between these two main characters but also in the presentation of Cecely's son and Dame Thomasine, the nun known for her exemplary holiness.  Margaret Frazer's intriguing look into the idea of good, evil and innocence not only adds to the medieval historical setting but also gives this mystery a satisfying refreshing depth in a genre in which a dead body is little more than a plot device for the mystery itself and the aggrandizement or self-actualization of the sleuth.  Margaret Frazer's THE APOSTATE'S TALE is a refreshing change of pace for mystery buffs and a welcome familiarity for medievalist enthusiasts in its multi-leveled historical authenticity. If you happen to be both like I am, this book a pure delight.

Publisher: Berkley (January 2009)

Copyright Merrimon Crawford  2009 All Rights Reserved