In 15th-century England, it long has been illegal for Jews to enter the country. So when merchant trader David Weir is accused by an Inquisition friar of the apparent ritual murder of a teenage boy, both he and his secret lover are endangered. Cade's Rebellion of 1450 and the absence of King Henry VI provide a turbulent backdrop for this 15th Dame Frevisse mystery as the Benedictine sister investigates the teen's murder and that of the venomous friar, likely by the same hand. Mounting evidence suggests that it is a member of the household where David; his lover Anne, a seamstress and teller of the tale; and Dame Frevisse all are trapped while London faces rebellion and chaos. The daily historical details are well done, the characters sharply drawn, and the reality of a Jew's precarious existence in anti-Semitic world is sympathetically portrayed without easy resolution. Recommended. Frazer lives near Minneapolis. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In Frazer's engrossing 15th historical (after 2005's The Widow's Tale), Dame Frevisse leaves her rural convent for London in the summer of 1450 to procure some vestments from the titular sempster ("seamstress," as Frazer explains in an author's note, didn't come into use until the 1600s). But on arrival in London, she learns that her errand is twofold: in addition to the vestments, she must convey a secret stash of gold from the sempster, a widow named Anne, to Frevisse's cousin, Lady Alice. Alice has more to hide than gold. She's having an affair with Daved, a Jewish merchant. Because Jews have been long expelled from England, Daved pretends to be Christian, while continuing to practice Judaism behind closed doors. Frevisse is drawn ever deeper into intrigue when she accompanies Anne to identify a body that some priests believe shows the marks of a Jewish ritual killing. As usual, Frazer offers careful historical detail and characters you'll want to befriend. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
What Frazer...gets absolutely right in "The Sempster's Tale" are the attitudes of the characters. ("Detroit Free Press")