FEVERSHAM by Diane Davidson


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An unusually spirited meld of inventive story telling and empathetic scholarship pitches this well above the usual low-flying average for Tudor reconstructions. The murder trial of Alice Arden, accused of the death of her husband, her lowly-born lover Morsby, and some unfortunate retainers, did indeed take place in 1550 and was presided over by Sir Thomas Cheyney, Lord Warden of Cinque Ports, Lord Lieutenent of Kent and Canterbury. Holinshed saw fit to chronicle it and someone with a groundling's ear produced a play, Arden of Feversham, airily attributed at times to Marlowe or even the Bard. Miss Davidson has made conscientious use of these and two other (probably more reliable) main sources to set the tragedy in the form of a detective story with Sir Thomas himself playing the doubt-assailed sleuth. Alice is sentenced to death, and Sir Thomas listens to statements from the condemned shortly before some ghastly executions. But in spite of last-minute plotting by the expedient Sir Thomas and Alice's father, Lord North, Alice is executed, wearily unrepentant, cynical and a free soul. The education of Sir Thomas' nephew, young Hugh, in the ways of love is a pleasant grace note to the raw tumult of 16th century life in England with its cruelties, injustices, religious and intellectual explorations, and its clamorous transitions. Miss Davidson, in the course of the novel, gives plausible Tudor answers to quite possible Tudor questions. A fine flourish for murder most foul.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1969
Publisher: Crown