The Squire’s Tale
Robert Fenner, a landholder and former squire, attempts to settle a dispute between his lady wife Blaunche and her former in-laws. Believing that Blaunche’s dower property should revert to her former husband’s family, the Allesleys, Robert means to settle this disagreement through the marriage of his ward, Katherine, to the Allesley heir. However, the young heiress’ hand is widely sought, and she is brought to the nunnery of St. Frideswide’s for protection. When it’s judged safe to return, two nuns, Dame Claire and Dame Frevisse, are asked to accompany the group back home, where arbitration will settle things once and for all. The levels of tension and deception escalate, and they eventually lead to murder.
Strangely for a crime novel, in The Squire’s Tale the story leading up to the murder forms the first two-thirds of the book. This isn’t to say that the background isn’t fascinating in itself, with detailed descriptions of the quiet, contemplative life at St. Frideswide’s, complications of marriage among the minor nobility, and sympathetic, if not always likeable, characters. Mystery fans may find themselves impatiently predicting the murder, but medieval enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy here.