Book Review: Margaret Frazer’s The Murderer’s Tale

Posted August 30, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review:  Margaret Frazer’s The Murderer’s Tale

The Murderer's Tale


Margaret Frazer

historical mystery that was published by Berkley Prime Crime on August 1, 1996 and has 230 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Murder Most Medieval: Noble Tales of Ignoble Demises, A Play of HeresyCoventry, Easter, plays, murder, spies, guilds, mercer, jealousy, Judas, theater, directing, acting, suicide, costumes, religious plays,

Sixth in the Sister Frevisse medieval mystery series revolving around a nun who solves crimes.

My Take

This was a bit Agatha Christie hearkens back and centers around a truly evil person. Frazer writes this person so well that you understand how inherently evil he is and how well he covers it up so the average person doesn’t see it. Just not well enough. It’s mindblowing how Giles can twist and turn absolutely anything to the bad. The way he treats Edeyn is just appalling. I read this in a constant state of disbelief.

St. Frideswide’s is going down the tubes. I’m wondering how long Alys will last!

It was pretty funny how appalled everyone was when Lionel introduced his steward! I love that Lady Lowell chose to spend her money on a gorgeous garden that she can enjoy now instead of on a tomb that others would enjoy when she was dead! Hmmm, The Romance of the Rose sounds like quite an intriguing poem.

It’s so sad to read of how all the servants react to Lionel’s predicament. Makes me wonder what things we cringe from today, at which future readers will be appalled.

The brief peek we have of Lady Lowell instructing her youngest son in stewardship and geography was certainly interesting. A different sort of schooling than that to which we are accustomed.

Sad and funny at the same time is when both Frevisse and Claire realize that St. Frideswide’s truly is home in spite of Domina Alys.

The Story

It’s the first story in which we’ve encountered the sisters of the priory since Domina Edith’s death and it truly is a state that will try women’s souls. Silly buggers, they deserve what they hath wrought. Unfortunately Dames Frevisse and Claire are suffering as well and it’s this state that finds them on the penitential road to Oxford.

With a side trip to Minster Lovell to deal with a property issue St. Frideswide’s is experiencing at Prior Byfield. A fortunate chance for the sisters and for Lionel Knyvet whom they encounter on the road to the Lowell manor, for the Knyvet household moves from Knyvet to Langley each spring and back again in the winter. An opportunity Lionel takes to visit as many shrines as he can hoping to find a cure for his demonic possession.

Luckily for Lionel, Giles knows nothing of Frevisse’s intelligence. I suspect that if he were told, he would pooh-pooh it. After all, she’s only a woman.

The Characters

Dames Frevisse and Claire have been very naughty, for nuns. As penance, they manage to get sent on a pilgrimage. Luckily. Sister Thomasine is still holier than all. A state to which Frevisse has slowly accustomed herself to, yet Thomasine continues to surprise her with her grasp of the real world.

John Taylor is the nephew to the priory’s steward, Roger Naylor, and is sent along with Father Henry, the priory priest, as chaperones to the two sisters. Taylor is quite “longheaded and as steady as his uncle”. Father Henry is not very bright, but he is very devout and a decent, warmhearted soul. Neither are what Domina Alys was hoping for as companions on the sisters’ travels.

Alys is the prioress now, strictly through fear and extreme bad luck.

Master Lionel Knyvet suffers from the falling sickness and has pledged not to wed even though he is deeply in love with Edeyn. A lovely, lovely man. Martyn Gravesend is his steward and manservant, a decent and loyal man. The only one of them who will come near Lionel when his fit comes upon him. So naturally, Giles despises him. Well, Giles despises everyone, so that’s no real distinction.

Giles Knyvet is Lionel’s cousin and heir and there is absolutely nothing redeeming about him. He loves to foment trouble everywhere he goes. He’s also married to Edeyn, who would have preferred Lionel.

Lady Lovell is caring for the estate while Lord Lovell is attending to problems at Court. Luce is one of her ladies. Fidelitas of ladyship’s dogs who ends up devoted to Lionel. Master Holt is the Lowell steward and an intelligent man employed by intelligent people. Sire Benedict is the household priest. Giles’ goose is so cooked!

The Cover and Title

Oooh, pretty cover. Quite different from the previous installments. It’s a plain vanilla background with a very elaborate frame around the window that itself frames a collage of events from the story. The frame quite handily shapes itself to fit around a white-barked tree under which a man rests with his white steed standing over him as two darkly draped figures converse on a path leading to Minster Lowell in the background.

The window frame is something to see with its lapis-painted insets on the side pillars and the gold scrollwork inlaid on top of that. The pillars themselves are punctuated by elaborate carvings with yet more carvings on the inside and the central bottom with more projecting at the top and trimming the shaped arch. The top and bottom panels of the frame are yet more elaborate with color and diamond-shapes..

The title is too, too accurate. It’s difficult to believe that minds can actually think this way, and then to “boast” of it. It truly is The Murderer’s Tale.