Friday, February 27, 2009

Dame Frevisse

Via the Books and Culture ezine, I learned about a series of murder mysteries by Margaret Frazer. They are set around a character called 'Dame Frevisse, a quick-witted Benedictine nun of St. Frideswide's Priory in Oxfordshire,' and have some similarities to the Brother Cadfael series, being set back in the 15th century.
The first in the series, which our library happened to have, is entitled, The Novice's Tale. The novice in question, Thomasine, is a rather irritating, overly-saintly teenager (the other nuns comment on it more than once) , whose harridan of an aunt turns up at the priory one day with her large retinue, has a conversation with Domina Edith (the equivalent of an Abbess) and Thomas Chaucer (an historical person, the son of Geoffrey Chaucer), and discovers something which sets her off to her other neice's home in such a fury that various unhappy events follow in the wake of her hasty departure.
The plotting is neat enough to keep you guessing - well, it kept me guessing, but I've never been very good at figuring out murder mysteries - and while Frevisse is a bit tart in nature (unlike Cadfael) you warm to her good sense and willingness to get herself in hot water if it will clear things up. Frazer knows her history and the details of the period, but doesn't stuff them down your throat (like the author Tim Severin, does in Buccanneer, a book I had to review but found to be so didactic in tone that the characters seldom came alive).
Apparently the seventeenth book in this series has just been published - The Apostate's Tale.
LaVonne Neff notes in her review of the book: The author, Margaret Frazer, actually started out as two women: mystery writer Mary Monica Pulver and amateur archaeologist/historian Gail Frazer, who met at the Society for Creative Anachronism, became friends, and wrote the first six Dame Frevisse novels together. When Pulver went on to other pursuits, Frazer continued the series on her own.
Unfortunately our local library is surprisingly short on books in the series: only the first two are in stock. Looks like a bit of hunting down of the other titles may be in order, now that I know the series is worth reading.
Post a Comment