The Widow’s Tale

by

Author: Frazer, Margaret
Title: The Widow’s Tale
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2005
Number of Pages: 266 p.
Geographical Setting: Rural England
Time Period: 15th century
Series:
Dame Frevisse medieval mysteries

Plot Summary: Set in rural England in the mid 1400’s, The Widow’s Tale is an engrossing domestic mystery rich with period details and careful characterization. When her devoted husband dies, Cristiana Helyngton finds herself overrun by his scheming siblings in a calculated plot to seize control of his land and property—and daughters’ inheritances. Kidnapped, declared insane, and shut away in a distant convent, Cristiana’s only thoughts are of escape, finding her children, and seeking justice against her villainous in-laws. Fortunately for Cristiana, St. Frideswide’s nunnery, the convent where she’s been stashed is home to Dame Frevisse, a nun with keen powers of observation and a knack for eliciting answers. When more information about the widow arises and she is ordered home, Frevisse and her superior return with Cristiana and find themselves in the midst of the struggle among her family and friends, as well as their own. Full of well researched and accessible details of life in medieval England—both in manors and convents—as well as a fascinating exploration of the politics of the time, The Widow’s Tale is a moderately paced but engaging mystery as well as a character-driven, historical family drama. Its narration shifts unobtrusively between Cristiana and Frevisse’s points of view, and there is very little “onscreen” violence.

Subject Headings: Frevisse, Sister; Women detectives — England; Nun-detectives — England; Land tenure; Catholics; Widows; Nuns; Nobility — England; Family relationships — England; Family secrets; Inheritance and succession — England; Mother and daughter; Malicious accusation; Separated friends, relatives, etc; Greed in men; Brothers and sisters; Rescues
Fifteenth century; The Forties (15th century); Great Britain — History — Lancaster and York, 1399-1485; Great Britain — History — Henry VI, 1422-1461; England — History — 15th century; England — Social life and customs — Medieval period, 1066-1485; Oxfordshire, England — Social life and customs; Letters; Historical mystery stories, American; Medieval mystery stories; Historical fiction, American; Mystery stories, American

Appeal: accurate, character-centered, complex, contemplative, deliberate, detailed, detailed setting, details of 15th century Catholicism, details of 15th century convent life, details of 15th century England, details of 15th century English manor life, details of 15th century English politics, details of Hundred Years’ War, domestic, engaging, event-oriented, evocative, faithful characterizations, gentle, graceful, historical details, insightful, intimate, intriguing, investigative, linear, measured, mild violence, multiple points of view, plot-centered, political, resolved ending, rural, series characters, steady, strong secondary characters, sympathetic characters, thoughtful, vivid, well-developed characters, well-drawn characters

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

· Fortune Like the Moon, Alys Clare (Medieval mystery set in England and involving a nun detective)

· A Morbid Taste for Bones, Ellis Peters (First in a Medieval mystery series set in England, involving a monk detective)

· Chaucer and the House of Fame, Philippa Morgan (Murder mystery involving Geoffrey Chaucer as investigating a murder while on a diplomatic mission from England to France during the Hundred Years’ War)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

· The Reign of Henry VI, Ralph A. Griffiths (biography of King Henry VI of England [and France], details of his court, politics of the time, and the ongoing war with France—all background details crucial to The Widow’s Tale)

Name: Cynthia

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