Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Sempster's Tale; M. Frazer


Another Sister Frevisse mystery, this one taking place in London. Sister Frevisse has a dual mission. Buy hard to get supplies for her convent, St. Frideswide's, choose fabric and patterns for vestments honoring the now deceased Duke of Suffolk (a commission from Frevisse's cousin Alice, the Duke's widow) and a secret, unknown mission on Alice's behalf.

The political atmosphere in England is fraught with strife. There are minor uprisings & generalized discontent- aimed primarily at the nobility around the king, but Henry isn't widely loved either. London has been the focus, being both the seat of power and the commercial and economic hub of England. Too, there are rumblings that there are heresies spreading through the kingdom.

Into all of this Frevisse and her fellow travellers from St. Frideswide are dropped. The commercial goods must be ordered and paid for, the vestment cloth and embroidery patterns must be chosen, negotiated and paid for. Not to mention figuring out Alice's secret mission. All in the hustle and bustle of London.

There are really two plots happening in this book. Frevisse must help solve a murder that occurs amid negotiations with a cloth merchant and she must complete Alice's mission too. A teenage boy is found murdered beneath a local church, his body defaced with odd carvings. Could it be a nasty heresy imported from the Continent? Or perhaps connected with the cloth merchant's hidden trade? Part of a political plot, even? This same merchant is also one of the contacts Frevisse had for Alice's mission.

Of the two plots, only the murders are solved. Frevisse's mission on Alice's behalf has been left unfinished, presumably to be continued in the next volume. I'm impatient to see what happens with Frevisse's mission for Alice. What kind of problems must Alice be having for her to ask a cloistered nun for help? Help that is, honestly, a little underhanded and deceitful? I also felt that Frevisse's actions after the murders in London was not as aboveboard & honest as I expected. Her actions, taken in concert with the assistance of the merchant's family, left me out in the cold. I was very surprised that Frevisse's conscience allowed her to go through with what she did. Even so- I want to know if she accomplished Alice's mission. What is happening in Alice's world? And can Frevisse really go through with it all?

Other questions- could you fall in love with someone knowing he lived a double life? That he likely had a family elsewhere? That you & he didn't have a chance at an honest future together? Love him deeply despite knowing he purposely hid things from you? Love him even though he was technically fobidden in your country & that your faith holds him anathema? Is love & sex worth all of these painful questions?? Maybe some of these questions too can be answered next.

The next book in the series is Traitor's Gate.

1 comment:

alibug said...

In the midst of listening to a fictionalized account of Catherine Parr called The Last Wife of King Henry the 8th. It's a great romance (though not with Henry.) I think you'd like it.