The Widow's Tale by Margaret Frazer

Jul 14, 2011

With the untimely death of her beloved husband, Edward, Cristiana Helyngton is now a widow.  She and her daughters, eight-year-old Jane and twelve-year-old Mary, are grateful for the help and guidance of Cristiana’s brother, Gerverys.  But Gerverys is no match for Edward’s cousin Laurence Helyngton, who is determined to have all the Helyngton land and properties as well as Jane and Mary under his control.

The first step in Laurence’s plan is to whisk Cristiana to a convent where the sisters are told she is mad with grief and has taken to indecent behavior, no longer fit to mother her children.  Cristiana is forced into isolation and penance for her sins, and in the months that pass, Laurence tries to force Mary into marriage with his son in order to insure his rights to the land and properties.

Mary will have none of it, and Laurence brings Cristiana back thinking to blackmail her into assisting him.  But Cristiana and Gerverys have a letter given to them by Edward just before his death that proves treason to king and country, a letter that is only to be used for their protection in the direst of circumstances.  Now that the existence of the letter has been made known, multiple murders and mystery abound.

What is in the letter and who does it implicate?  Dame Frevisse, one of the nuns from the convent who traveled with Cristiana back to her home, is given free rein to question all to help discover the spies among them and those responsible for the murders.

Set in 1450 England, this next in the series of Dame Frevisse medieval mysteries blends sharp characterization, vivid imagery, and page-turning intrigue.  Once the main characters are introduced and the stage set, Dame Frevisse gently takes over.  So well-crafted is the writing that although Dame Frevisse guides the reader along in her investigation, she’s never intrusive, never takes center stage away from the major players and the concluding story.  The many that will enjoy this book will also be pleased to learn that there are a number of other titles available in this series.

Reviewed by Library Staff