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The Apostate's Tale: A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery    by Margaret Frazer order for
Apostate's Tale
by Margaret Frazer
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When this 17th novel in the popular Dame Frevisse mystery series begins, it is Easter Week in 1452, and the nunnery at St. Friteswide's - in a holiday tradition - has opened its doors and has welcomed a number of pilgrims, who have come to the austere religious site for a number of reasons.

A surprise visitor, however, puts everyone at St. Friteswide's on edge.

The ostensibly repentant Cecely - a former novitiate at the nunnery who had abruptly departed nine years earlier - has suddenly returned, and she brings two difficult problems with her: one is her small son Neddie whose deceased father was the seductive reason that Cecely had renounced her holy vows, and the other is a secret plan for the future that Cecely will share with no one.

However, at least one other visiting pilgrim, Master Breredon, knows something about the apostate Cecely's secret plan, and very shortly after Cecely's and Neddie's arrival, a confrontational visitor to St. Friteswide's - Master John Rowcliffe - makes blustery demands and exposes part of Cecely's dark secret: As a relative of Cecely's deceased husband, Rowcliffe wants to take Neddie with him (to raise as the family heir), and he wants the family's property deeds that he claims Cecely had stolen.

Then, when a series of murderously motivated poisonings occur, Dame Frevisse and her fellow sisters at the nunnery become acutely aware of the kind of treachery and deceit that has accompanied Cecely and now threatens to disturb the sacred simplicity of life within the walls of St. Friteswide's.

Of course, as in the 16 previous Dame Frevisse mysteries, the 15th century amateur sleuth is well-suited to the challenges: the mystery of the poisonings, stolen deeds, proper inheritances, and Cecely's secret will eventually be resolved. Overflowing with atmospheric details that make the complex historical setting come alive for modern readers, The Apostate's Tale - populated by appealing characters and straight-forward plotting - will almost certainly appeal to fans of medieval mysteries.

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