Tuesday, February 27, 2007

4 Mysteries

The Bastard's Tale
Written by Margaret Frazer and published by Berkley in 2003, TBT is a historical political thriller set in the town of Bury St. Edmonds. The Duke of Gloucester's wife has been held by the King on trumped up charges for the past five years. His Grace, naturally, would like to get her back. Since the King (Henry VI) and his entire court has descended on Bury St. Edmonds, Gloucester travels there from Wales with a retinue to try and win her back. Sister Frevisse is in Bury too- with her cousin Lady Alice de la Pole, Marchioness of Sufflok, trying to woo gifts of land and property for her priory St. Frideswide's. Joliffe, the player (actor) who also has his own book series, is there too. His company has been hired to help keep the court entertained.

The Bastard's Tale has much more of an edge of your seat, urgent feel to it. There are many threads in this plot- Alice & Frevisse's kinship, Joliffe & the players, Joliffe Frevisse & the Bishop's plans. The King, his advisors & the war in France. Best of all, though, was Alice's young son John who strongly reminded me of Nephew #1 down in Richmond.

The Hunter's Tale
Written by Margaret Frazer and published by Berkely in 2004, this story had a dark, melancholy tone the deeper I dug into it. Sir Ralph & Lady Anneys Woderove had two sons & miscellaneous daughters, plus Ralph had a son form his first marriage. Ralph is a violent & brutal man who stops at nothing to terrorize his family & the serfs attached to his land. Unsurprisingly, he is found dead in the woods one day following a hunt. It is declared murder, but no one seems overly inclined to find the murderer. Lady Anneys and Ursula retreat to St. Frideswide's priory to gain some quiet & ease. Too bad for her, one of her sons is murdered while she's there. Frevisse is sent back to Lady Anneys' manor to help & begins digging around for the truth, much like a terrier after a fox. She finds her quarry, but not before asking herself difficult and painful questions about the essential nature of truth. About emotional pain and healing and justice. Excellently done. Highly recommended.

The Widow's Tale

Written by Margaret Frazer and published by Berkley in 2005, this title is similar to The Bastard's Tale above in that it is a political thriller & has an urgent edge of your seat tone. At least- the last half does. The first half is alot of setting the stage for later action & drags a little. Lady Christiana is imprisoned under false pretenses at St. Frideswide's. Later, under duress, she is freed but two of the nuns accompany her home as they lack authority to simply free her. Family issues arise, as well as an unexpected visit from the now Duchess of Suffolk, Sister Frevisse's cousin Alice. Oh yes- the King & Queen are coming too. And- who keeps spying on Christiana & her brother? Will the evil brother in law succeed with his nefarious plot? Can Christiana save her daughters before it's too late?? And how can Alice come to terms with the awful, powerhungry, amoral man her husband has turned into? This is the only book in the series I figured out before the end.

The Merchant's Partner

Written by Michael Jecks and published in 1995, second title in a long series that starts with The Last Templar. Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and Simon Puttock, Baliff of Lydgate Castle, are buddies. Puttock & his wife are visiting Furnshill at his manor when an old woman is found murdered at the edge of a meadow. Furnshill falls in lust with a young Frenchwoman married to a local, wealthy merchant. Puttock's wife is preggers & grouchy & likes to meddle. Another person is murdered, in the same manner as the first. Unfortunately for both victims, someone has confessed, but there's no real proof he did it. Gossip complicates matters, as always. Neatly done. Much better than the first.

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