Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Reeve’s Tale: A Sister Frevisse Medieval Mystery by Margaret Frazer
The Sister Frevisse series is set in the fifteenth century and revolves around the small village of Prior Byfielf and St. Frideswide’s Abby. The Reeve’s Tale is the 9th book in the series. The way the book was written I could not tell that I was starting in the middle of a series.
I really liked this book. Margaret Frazer has researched her subject and tries to stay true to village and convent life in the fifteenth century. She includes notes in the back to let the reader know what is historically true in the book. Among the things she includes are disputes taken from actual records of the times.
The story in The Reeve’s Tale is very complex. Just as I though I knew what had happened a new twist showed up. Simon is the village Reeve (the person who hears and settles disputes) and when there are two murders he is one of the people accused. Simon’s counterpart at St. Frideswide’s is accused of being a runaway villein (a person who belongs to another Lord) and is removed from his office until he can clear his name. Sister Frevisse is chosen to take his place. During this time a measles epidemic forces Sister Frevisse to stay in village helping nurse the children. In addition to serving as a nurse she must also try to find out how two of the villagers met brutal deaths. Sister Frevisse is a very low-key character that gets results by asking the right questions at the right time. As a nun she has more power than most women but still has to work to keep from being shoved into the background and ignored.
I found it fascinating to see how the balance between village, Lord, King, and Church played out. The world of medieval England was much more complex than I though. This is a series I will continue to follow.
I checked out The Reeve’s Tale from the Rogers, AR Public Library.