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The Novice's Tale

(Sister Frevisse #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  3,284 ratings  ·  159 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…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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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,284 ratings  ·  159 reviews

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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 fa
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Basically Cadfael with a female lead. A good, casual read for a plane
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.
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.
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!
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
Andrew Doohan
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
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
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Margaret Frazer hat für ihren Mittelalterroman gut recherchiert – soweit es um Details aus dem Klosterleben oder um die Epoche geht, in der die Geschichte stattfindet. Eindeutig nicht mittelalterlich wirken die Umgangsformen der Figuren, vor allem die Denkansätze und so wirkt der Roman wie eine schlechte Kopie von „Im Namen der Rose“ mit weiblicher Besetzung. Unterhaltsam ist er trotzdem und spannend bis zum Schluss. Das kriminalistische Geschick der Schwester, das tatsächlich weit mehr an Miss ...more
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
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I like the leisurely pace of this story, and the details of Medieval life. The characters were pretty good, especially Frevisse, and I'd like to read another book about her. I didn't guess the ending, but that's partly because there are things the reader doesn't know until the last couple of chapters. I liked it enough to go on with the series, and others by Margaret Frazer.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
The cultural norms and every day life in the Dame Frevisse stories is well researched so you learn so much about life in the 15th century (and it's more entertaining than a dry history book!).

I've read all 17 books in this series and the 7 in the Joliffe series as well. Jolly good entertainment!
Melissa BikePretty

How many times can an author flog the same concept in one short book? We get it, the novice is pious. Also cashing this a mystery is a stretch. The murderer is obvious from the start.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this historical novel when staying in Oxford, not realising it was set in the locality until I read the name of St. Frideswide. I love Oxford and love reading novels set in the area.
Amy Bradley
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first in the Sister Frevisse Medieval Mystery series. Was an interesting mystery, in terms of having no clue pretty much until the nearly end. While Benedictine orders are really not my thing, the details of the (mostly) secluded life and routines of the nuns held my attention.
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Meh. Not sure I'll continue this series, although they are short. I like the main character but there isn't enough daily details to keep my interest -- remove the medieval clothes and I think you could just have another run of the mill cozy mystery. We'll see.
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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)
“Both heaven and earth rejoice when a saint escapes the earthly body: Heaven because a soul has triumphed over the devil. And earth because a saint is a prickly person to live with.” 1 likes
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