The Apostate’s Tale

The Apostate’s Tale by Margaret Frazer. We live in a world filled with violent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe (the list could go on and on), political battles nearer to hand, and twenty-four hour media coverage ratcheting up the noise in our heads. So we can be forgiven if we just need a break from it all. Frazer’s latest entry in the Dame Frevisse series set in 15th century England presents such a break. As the author herself notes, there is a total lack of politics with no mention of the ongoing dispute between the Duke of York and King Henry VI. The entire book takes place inside the confines of St. Frideswide’s priory. And not one single person dies. But that is not to say that evil does not make its presence known. The arrival of Sister Cecely, who disappeared nine years previously with her lover, disrupts the nunnery’s preparations for the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter Week. Her return also causes many of the nuns to question their own faith and her lies bring trouble from the outside world to St. Frideswide’s, requiring Frevisse to take on more responsibility as a mentor to her fellow sisters and to use her detection skills to find a resolution to the situation. In the end, Cecely acts as a catalyst for events that will significantly change the priory’s future.

As Alan Gordon, another historical mystery author, says, “This [story] is all character driven, and [Frazer] really puts you inside their heads. Frevisse’s own growth as a character is quite wonderful.” There have been times when reading Frazer’s Joliffe series that I have tired of her detailed descriptions of the internal thoughts of her characters, but for the most part this story moves along at a reasonable pace, even though Frevisse’s most strenuous activity is walking from the cloister to the guesthall or the church. Fans of Frazer’s previous books will not be disappointed.

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