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The Merchant's Tale

(Oxford Medieval Mysteries #4)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  778 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Oxford, Autumn 1353

St Frideswide’s Fair is a great annual event in Oxford, bringing together merchants and buyers from all over England and Wales, and from as far away as Flanders and France. Yet the earnings from the fair, granted to the Priory of St Frideswide centuries before, are resented by the town, and resentment can turn to violence. Under the unscrupulous Prior d
Kindle Edition, 251 pages
Published July 24th 2017 by Shakenoak Press (first published July 24th 2014)
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Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm addicted to this series and I don't know what I'm going to do now that I've read all four of them (in barely more than a week as I just couldn't stop reading). I love, love, love the vivid characters and setting - Oxford in 1353 just four years after the massive outbreak of the Black Death- the author's excellent research into numerous aspects of fourteenth-century life and work, the assured narrative and authorial voice, all the wonderful details that bring medieval Oxford to life but never ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Fighting a fever, so I will be brief. I have read and enjoyed Ann Swinfen's medieval mystery series, was delighted to see her notice here on goodreads that this new one was available and immediately downloaded and read. It has a slow start and if anyone reading this is looking for a series authentic to the time and centered in Oxford, give it a try - but do start with the first book. Otherwise you will be lost. Prince Edward features in a fun sequence with our book seller. It is clear this serie ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's the Feast of St. Frideswide and a great fair is to be held in Oxford. Nicholas's sister and her friends decide to set up a booth to sell cheeses and preserves to make a little money. There's trouble with the local priory and its unscrupulous Prior de Hungerford, who seems to be selling items belonging to the priory to line his own pocket, which comes to Nicholas's attention when a merchant asks him to appraise books offered to him for sale. In the hustle and bustle of the fair, Nicholas bec ...more
Lisa Brantly
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
3.5 stars. Not quite as good as the first 3 mysteries, but still very enjoyable.
I look forward to each addition to Swinfen's Oxford mysteries series, and this installment did not disappoint. Occurring just weeks after The Huntsman's Tale , the story of lovable Nicholas Elyot carries on seamlessly. Now we find ourselves returned to Oxford in time for the St Frideswide's Fair, where some people have nefarious deeds in mind.

Nicholas is emboldened enough to begin pressing his suit with the lovely Emma and I felt the squeeze of my heart just as I would if two people I personally
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the best of the current series. I think the author has hit her stride now that she has many characters who have been evolving in the various books. The historical aspects are more interesting too with such notables as the Black Prince.

I found the events of the fair to be quite intriguing. Once again, it does seem the women of the household do most of the work, but Nicholas is much more helpful than most of the town men encountered. Still, it can't have been an easy life for anyone in the
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Merchant's Tale by Ann Swinfen is the fourth of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Series which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. It is set in Oxford after the Great Plague in which the protagonist bookseller and scrivener, Nicholas Elyot has lost his wife. He is raising his two young children with the help of his sister Margaret.

I enjoy the details of everyday life, as when Nicholas, Margaret and a group of friends go foraging for blackberries and crab apples. There is also a fair at the pri
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Love living in this world with the families we have been introduced to through the Oxford Medieval Mysteries. The day to day living, their Medieval technologies, agriculture, food preparation, are fascinating. Maybe my favorite is the art and science of medieval book making... And then there is the twisting plot makes figuring out the answer all that more fun.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sigh. Another first-rate tale from a mistress of her art. Not fast-paced throughout, although it certainly has some exciting moments, but a rich tapestry of life in the fourteenth century. I always feel totally immersed in the experience when I read her Oxford Medieval Mysteries.
Mary R
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Having had the time to read all four books of this series (I hope there will be more) within a week, I am amazed that the product is so fresh right to the end. There's a lot of research to put these in these little books together and a lot of wonderful information shared. Almost every time that means "boring" not so here...loved the series hence the five stars. BRAVO ANN and thank you!
Ana Mello
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am a great fan of this series. When I saw this book yesterday I felt Ms. Swinfen had given me a wonderful birthday present.
Master Nicholas, an Oxford bookmaker, his family and friends are back, unraveling some dark deeds from an acquisitive prior and also some treachery by the french.
As always, de description of everyday life in medieval Oxford during the reign of Edward III is well researched and beautifully described.
I am happy Ms. Swinfen is a prolific writer, so I can hope for the next bo
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this series and enjoyed this latest installment as much as the others. This one focuses on the St. Frideswide's Fair, and the conflict between the townspeople and the Priory, which runs the fair. The plots are always pretty good, and I like the characters. But my favorite thing about these books is the depiction of daily life in medieval Oxford.

Unlike the other books, which have a lot of details about different occupations like scribing, candle-making, and farming, this one doesn't focus
Hoefling Holger
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading the book, same as all the other 3 books in the series. It is a pleasant mystery set in a medieval setting and I look forward to the books because despite the fact they are about murder, they have a very peaceful feel to them.

That being said, there are some reasons why it is only 4 stars instead of 5.

First, the author sometimes has a tendency to repeat things one has read several times. This has already gotten somewhat better in this book though.

Second, the author sometimes se
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far, this is the last book in this very well done medieval mystery series featuring bookseller Nicholas Elyot in Oxford, UK in 1353. It's not only that the series is set in my favorite historical time period, but that it is well written, character driven, and immersive into the culture and the times. I do hope there will be more books forthcoming in the series. The narrator, Phillip Battley, does a wonderful job of the different voices and capturing the soul of the story as he spins the tale. ...more
Hebby Roman
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm loving this series, all the books are 5 Stars in my estimation, as Ms. Swinfen manages to bring us into the world of the 14th medieval times. And these are not books about royalty or nobility, as most medieval books are. These books are special because Ms. Swinfen has woven an alternate world of those long-ago times with great expertise, drawing you into the lives of these characters.
That being said, and I've started on the fifth book, and I will be desolate when I've finished the series, Bo
Cindy Woods
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fine writing!

Another outstanding book by Ann Swinfen! This is the fourth in this series and my favorite thus far. The medieval times are brought to life in detail
as the writing flows and the plot thickens. I love the characters, which are well described and develop over the course of the series. I suppose you could read the book as a standalone, but would miss out on the talented, well-versed writing and the engaging continuity of the suspense-filled series and the mysteries that are investigate
Mary Ann
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I read all four of these back-to-back and really enjoyed them. Although I'm steeped in English history, I have a peculiar affinity for the 14th century which began at age 13 when I purloined a copy of Anya Seton's wonderful Katherine from my eldest brother. This is the height of the Plantagenets with Edward III and his numerous progeny, the time of Chaucer, the Black Death, the decline of feudalism, and the rise of a merchant class.

Swinfen is a true scholar with a clean, very readable style. Sh
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My favorite outing of these characters so far.. the author continues to increase their depth, vitality and their exposure. I do love that they remain in the same group of friends and relatives so we do not have to relearn a lot.

Peter Winchingham, merchant, is a new character and I hope a new volume is being worked on that includes him. I suspect it will be so as he bought a manor in Leighton, Nicholas' home community not very far from Oxford.

The historical aspects of the St. Frideswide's fair a
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This really is a delightful series! I enjoy how there are subtle references to previous tales but these references do not prohibit others from understanding a specific tale regardless if they have or have not read the other tales. I enjoy the plots as well as some historically accurate details on both large scale and minuscule nuances. Both major and minor characters are enjoyable, and Swinfen writes their roles so that they contribute to the story and the plot. I usually attend at least one Ren ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is time for the priory fair which sets townsfolk in a state because they must close. The prior is not a very godly man and has even started charging admission. The ladies decide to take a booth and sell cheese. An old customer and friend of Nicholas's father in law is in town and has been offered some suspicious books turning to Nicholas for help. Meanwhile, the prior is stealing from his own house and the canons are trying to stop him. As if this is not enough, Mistress Walsea is in town bec ...more
Alissa McCarthy
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am so enjoying this series, especially the development of other characters and relationships. It does take Nicholas and his friends a long time to determine the target of a mysterious murderer using the fair as his cover, but it doesn't matter because the reader is treated to wonderful views of daily life in 14th century Oxford. The challenges of things like gathering fruit and preparing food, the excitement and dangers of the fair, the struggles of a business owner falling under the rules of ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Much Ado About the French

Ann Swifen continues the tale of Nicholas Eylot. Oxford is a small town but the priory and town, never friendly, is preparing for St. Friend's Fair. Shops must close for the duration while the priory deals the benefits of the fair. Nicholas ' sisters and friends decide to sell their wares at the fair. Of course, there is a murder and rumours of French treachery, especially since Prince Edward is staying at the priory. Added to the mix is the new head of the priory who se
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charming possibilities and adept mystery

A mysterious plot, stolen books, and an exciting faire all feature in this novel. How it came together was clever and worked out in the very end of the book to give lots of room for the story. I like to pride myself on solving mysteries first but I did not guess this one. A few more characters were introduced, perhaps who will show up more in future novels.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This delightful series of medieval mysteries with its expanding cast of loved characters doesn't fail to impress yet again. The narration is good. The historical details of daily life and Oxford are impressive. Just this week I read an article about a skull you d in Germany of a woman who had lapis lazuli on the back of her teeth, seen to be proof more so.en would have been scriveners. Am very much enjoying the developing romance between Nicholas and Emma.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good book in this series. I don't read these for the mysteries (because I always solve them WAY before the protagonists). I read them for the wonderful historic details (including medieval fairs and spectacles in this one) and the warm, all too human characters. I'm always eager to see what day-to-day life bring for Nicholas and his family and friends.

Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Another excursion into the past. Again it offers an insight into the everyday life of the ordinary people, generally, minor merchants, yeoman and the lower classes. This one is set around a medieval fair and again demonstrates in an undemanding way the realities of medieval life. Though possibly a bit cleaner than reality....
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, as always. I love this series by Ann Swinfen. There’s a lot of historical context, but little focus on royalty. I enjoy the every day aspects of the story, but the rich twisting plot is what keeps me coming back. All four that I’ve read could be stand alone, but reading them in order really adds to the depth of the characters.
Richard Larraga
I read all four books in a sennight and was sorry to leave Master Elyot's world. I do hope Mistress Swinfen will return to Oxford and finish her tale. There are still so many stories to tell.

The characters are drawn well and we truly get a sense of the time and place. A well-written series.

In future editions a glossary and maps would be nice and helpful.
Mrs Barbara D Kirby
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How exciting!

The story includes everything from the descriptions of medieval life to the thrill of the Chase when Nicholas realises what is afoot. Enthralling. I couldn't put it down. Infant wait to read book 5 and the unfolding romance amongst the adventures
David Miller
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Delightful Tale !

Wonderful story. Would liked to read that Nicholas was rewarded by the prince. Hope the tales continue. Great series that doesn’t spend much time in subsequent tales catching the reader up on what has already happened.
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Play Book Tag: The Merchant's Tale by Ann Swinfen - 4 stars 2 12 Mar 13, 2018 10:16AM  
Play Book Tag: The Merchant's Tale by Ann Swinfen -3.5 stars 1 11 Aug 05, 2017 03:35PM  
Ann Swinfen spent her childhood partly in England and partly on the east coast of America. She read Classics and Mathematics at Oxford, where she married a fellow undergraduate, the historian David Swinfen. While bringing up their five children and studying for an MSc in Mathematics and a BA and PhD in English Literature, she had a variety of jobs, including university lecturer, translator, freela ...more

Other books in the series

Oxford Medieval Mysteries (6 books)
  • The Bookseller's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries, #1)
  • The Novice's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries, #2)
  • The Huntsman's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries, #3)
  • The Troubadour's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries, #5)
  • The Stonemason's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries #6)