THE REEVE'S TALE by Margaret Frazer


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For her hardcover debut, Edgar-nominated Sister Frevisse , previously mentored by her uncle, Geoffrey Chaucer’s son, steps outside a cozy 15th-century convent into her toughest performance to date. Frevisse’s logical mind and worldly experience dictate that she represent St. Frideswide’s cloistered nuns when their steward, Master Naylor, is confined by a challenge to his status as freeborn. Once away from her prayers, Frevisse unhappily finds herself in the village court partnered with Simon Perryn, Lord Lovell’s reeve, unraveling agricultural disputes between the priory’s and the lord’s villeins when a measles epidemic insures her quarantine outside the convent. Two land-lease decisions made in favor of the wealthy, detested Gilbey Dunn and against men in the reeve’s sister’s life—her ineffectual husband, Matthew Woderove, and her fiery paramour, Tom Hulcote’seem to result in their immediate deaths. When Frevisse’s longtime nemesis, corrupt royal crowner Master Montfort, suspects Perryn and Dunn as the culprits, Frevisse seizes her cue to go into action. The contemplative sister, lacking evidence and needing a confession to expose sin, turns especially hard-boiled to entrap the especially cold-blooded. Frazer dawdles in turning the screw of the mystery, but the looming threats guarantee suspense in this glimpse of agricultural economics in 1440s England. Greed and self-interest lurk beneath marital agreements knotted to land contracts, reminding God’s virgins just who feeds them.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-425-17232-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999


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