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The Novice's Tale

(Sister Frevisse #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  3,517 ratings  ·  174 reviews
The arrival of lusty, blaspheming dowager Lady Ermentrude at St. Frideswide convent in 1431 causes quite a stir, but before the obnoxious woman can get what she came for--her niece, the novice Thomasine--she is murdered.
Paperback, 229 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Berkley (first published 1992)
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Nina Hettema The book you are describing is "The Maggot" by John Fowles, author of "The French Lieutenant's Woman", "The Magus" and other good reads. It's a very c…moreThe book you are describing is "The Maggot" by John Fowles, author of "The French Lieutenant's Woman", "The Magus" and other good reads. It's a very compelling book, I agree, and Fowles does his step-in-step-out of the narrative to give us a modern perspective on what happens when a group of medieval travelers meet an alien spacecraft, which event in turn inspires Ann Lee, the mother of the Shaker faith. What an imagination!(less)

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Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: historical fiction, murder mystery fans
Quite different from Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, even given the obvious parallels (monastics & medieval England), The Novice's Tale is a well-done historical mystery with believable characters, motives, murderer etc. Frazer brings the rhythms of monastic life more into her stories than did Peters, which made it more realistic for me, and I like that the emphasis in her Sister Frevisse stories is not on Frevisse herself but more on the title characters.

Excellent, easy-reading summer book fare.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed everyone, the special 1431 setting, and originality of "The Novice's Tale". The characters who greet us aren't surly nuns barking at the trainee. They are loyal, designate places for conversing without rules, and marvel at the novice's piety. By that magical last third of a book, where there can be no thought of stopping, I considered four stars. A comment about motive two pages from the end, is flimsy. I will give three stars, expecting the bar to raise easily on the succeeding novels ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Light, quick read. I consider this the start of one of the better monastic-mystery-solvers. Seems to be historically accurate.
Audiobook Review

Medieval history comes alive in this lush setting of a catholic nunnery where treachery and murder occur forcing the nuns of St. Frideswides led by the sharp, clever Dame Frevise to find the answers before one of their own is taken as the convenient scape goat for the crime.

The Novice's Tale introduces series protagonist, Dame Frevise, who grew up in a wealthy, powerful man's household and he helped hone her strong mind and spirit which does not suffer fools easily. Domina Edith
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you like a mystery set in a historical fiction setting, this series is the one of you. A few years ago, I've read the Reeve's Tale. And today, I've read the Novice's Tale by the late Margaret Frazer, who perished a year ago. In the Sister Frevisse Mystery series, we enter the world of Medieval England, when kings rule the world. Sister Frevisse is a hosteler for the St. Frideswide Convent. When Novice Thomasine wants to become a nun, it isn't what it seems. First her step-aunt torments her an ...more
Dennis Fischman
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
The coziest of cozies, since it's set in a cloistered convent, yet this book manages to touch on Chaucer, Henry VI, the laws of entail and of marriage. It also introduces an unique detective, Dame Frevisse, the hosteler (guest accommodator) at the convent of St. Frideswide's, who is good not because she is innocent of sin but because she knows herself. I am looking forward to reading more of this series.
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
A neat, tidy little historical mystery. I loved Sister Frevisse and Dame Claire and will definitely be reading more of this series!
Pamela Shropshire
I read several of these books years ago, the ones available at the local library, anyway, and I remember enjoying them. So when I found a couple recently at Gardner's (a FABULOUS used book store in Tulsa not too far from my home), I picked them up.

The stories are set at St. Frideswide's, a medieval priory in Oxfordshire, in the 15th century. There was a real St. Fridewide's priory;just a hundred years after this story, it was dissolved by King Henry VIII; part of the church was destroyed and is
Kathy Davie
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First in the Sister Frevisse medieval mystery series revolving around a group of nuns, Dame Frevisse in particular. The series is based in St. Frideswide's priory, a Benedictine order, in Oxfordshire. This particular story takes place in September in the Year of Our Lord's grace 1431.

My Take
Okay, do not read this too soon after reading her Joliffe series as it incorporates the same Bishop of Winchester in both series. I made the mistake of reading both at the same time and I kept waiting for Jol
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it
The first in the extensive 'Sister Frevisse' medieval mystery series.
Although it is definitely more a formula mystery than an historical
novel, I didn't find it to be aggravatingly ahistorical.
Set in 15th century England, the convent of St. Fridewide's is home to
Sister Frevisse, a devout but eminently practical nun. It's also home
to Thomasine, a young novice whose piousness goes far beyond the
ordinary. Thomasine is deathly afraid that her loud and obnoxious Aunt
Ermentrude will somehow drag her ou
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historical mysteries
This got better later, once you get past the set up at the beginning which I thought was absurd. The year is 1431. I don't know what went one in those days but it seemed absurd that the nunnery would let such a blasphemous woman with her band of drunkards and thieves make themselves at home there just because she had a far-removed relative that was a novice soon to be taking vows there. No respect for what the convent stood for and the nuns acted like they were powerless to their lude propositio ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I quite enjoyed this easy to read mystery that takes place in a nunnery in 1431. The plot was good, as well as the history. I enjoyed the characters and the book had a nice pace to it. Overall, a good book and I plan on picking up another one from this author.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Basically Cadfael with a female lead. A good, casual read for a plane
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
First in a series. Very promising!
The year is about 1425 and the place is a convent in England. Fairly good mystery, great historical novel. Characters are very life-like and seem true to human nature and the nature of people from that time and that place.
Tam G
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it

A simple murder mystery set in a nunnery in the middle ages. It allows religious people to be religious, not-very-religious, practical, impractical, intelligent, annoying. I enjoyed the team of Dame Frevisse and Dame Claire. I liked that Frevisse's uncle is a Chaucer.

The mystery was fairly straight forward. I would read another.
Ram Kaushik
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Quite an enjoyable read, but feels like a slightly inferior Brother Cadfael. Will defer judgment till I read a couple more in the series.
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Margaret Frazer delivers another excellent medieval mystery with her book the Novice's Tale. The tale begins with Thomasine poised to become a nun in a few short weeks. Thomasine is a very gentle novice who has always wanted to become a nun. she has a saintly disposition and is afraid of men. Her hopes may be dashed by her very eccentric aunt Lady Ermentrude. Everyone at St. Frideswides dreads the arrival of her aunt who is very taxing person to be around.
She appears unannounced, then quickly d
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Margaret Frazer gave me a gift. I loved the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) and when I finished those books I never expected to come across another author who could create a character who struck me in the same way. Dame Frevisse is such a character. I love this strong female that is believable for the time. While I find reading about medieval life fascinating, I never fool myself that it was easy or particularly romantic. The lack of medicine and hygiene would keep me from wantin ...more
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Well written and interesting, much as Agatha Christie books are. There is quite a bit too much description of deaths, though. I don't like having that go on and on.

I did like the little historical touches, such as one of the main male characters being Chaucer's son, and they key female character having a Wycliffe Bible, which she kept hidden. The religious aspects are dealt with respectfully, as well, which I appreciated.
Kilian Metcalf
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ahh, the satisfaction of lying back, secure in the knowledge that you are in the hands of a master of language. In memory of the death of Margaret Frazer and in honor of her life, I am rereading my way through her canon. I was only a reader when I first found her. Now as a writer, I admire her craft as well. I find myself underlining passages that are particularly effective for further study to answer the question "how does she do that?"
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Brother Cadfael
In the vein of Brother Cadfael, Dame Frevisse and her nun buddies solve crimes in 13th century England. I like that Frevisse isn't set up as the only nun with smarts, and that unlike Cadfael there aren't any members of the community out to get her (*cough* Brother Jerome, Prior Robert *cough*). Domina Edith, Dame Claire and novice Thomassine make great backup and I look forward to reading more about the whole gang.

I hope this gets the Masterpiece treatment some day!
Martha Rosemberg
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting for its historical background
Andrew Doohan
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable little murder mystery (yes, I know that sounds macabre) set in a late medieval Benedictine priory. The historical context is that of the early reign of Henry VI, though it is only through references to known historical events on the mouth of the book's characters that his becomes obvious.

This wasn't a challenging read, which made it so very enjoyable in the context of my present holiday, and its length made it easy to complete in a relatively short period. The greatest att
Laura Edwards
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was all set to give this book three stars, but it just kept getting better and better and the rating was bumped up a notch. A very satisfying "whodunit" taking place in a 15th Century nunnery. The dialogue and characters seemed authentic to time and place. And I love that the main characters are a group of women aided mainly by their wits, intelligence, strength of character and faith.

I also really like the main character, Dame Frevisse. She is an intelligent, shrewd woman with a wry sense of
This book did not pretend to be anything it wasn't, which is refreshing. It is essentially a short murder mystery in a nunnery in 1400's England. That's what it was billed as, and that's exactly what it was. It was just as long as it needed to be, and was appropriate to the time period and the location. Frevisse, our sleuth, is a nun who doesn't take herself too seriously, and actually rolls her eyes at the super pious Thomasine, who is the focus of this first tale (I found this quite amusing). ...more
Nance Roepke
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I am a fan of medieval Mysteries and was pleased to come across a new series to explore. I would say that this one is better than the Brother Cadfael Mysteries. I actually started with his mysteries and got hooked and have moved on to others. The Dame Frevisse series starts with this book. Like brother cadfael, this is set in monastic community but is more realistic. I'd like Brother Cadfael, the character, better than I like Dame Frevisse but like the realism of Dame Frevisse is better. So thos ...more
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a mystery series set in a convent in the Middle Ages. If you've read the Brother Cadfael series, this is a lot like that - but with nuns instead of monks. One nun seems to understand a bit more about human nature than the others, so she's the one who solves the mysteries.

This is the first in the series, so a lot of time spend introducing the main characters and setting. I'll be interested to see the pacing of a later book.

It's been some time since I read the Brother Cadfaels - but I th
I read this first title in the Sister Frevisse series years ago and enjoyed it, and then re-read it to kick of the series for sure this time. It's a nice little mystery - something of a cozy, albeit set in 1431 - featuring an English convent and some clever nuns. Actually, what I find most intriguing is that it's set in 1431, during the reign of the unfortunate Henry VI (of the Lancastrian rose) and not an easy period of English history. This book contains a passing reference to Owen Tudor, so h ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have read most of the Dame Frevisse novels, but wanted something light right now. I had abslolutely no memory of this book, so it was a delight all over again. The action takes place in 1431,just after Queen Catherine married Owen Tudor. Having read a bit about the War of the Roses, I appreciated my insight of how that marriage reverbrated through time. (It has minor implact on the story.) Forsome reason, I love reading about monasteries and mysteries set therein. I will be re-reading all he s ...more
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Margaret Frazer is a pen name used at first by Mary Monica Pulver Kuhfeld and Gail Lynn Frazer writing in tandem for a series of historical medieval mysteries featuring Dame Frevisse. After the sixth novel, the works are written by Gail Frazer alone, and the name has subsequently been used exclusively by her. A second series of novels by Ms Frazer set in the same time and place feature the player/ ...more

Other books in the series

Sister Frevisse (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • The Servant's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #2)
  • The Outlaw's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #3)
  • The Bishop's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #4)
  • The Boy's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #5)
  • The Murderer's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #6)
  • The Prioress' Tale (Sister Frevisse, #7)
  • The Maiden's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #8)
  • The Reeve's Tale (Sister Frevisse #9)
  • The Squire's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #10)
  • The Clerk's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #11)

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