Margaret Frazer

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Circle of Witches - Margaret Frazer

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Circle of Witches has been enrolled in the new Kindle Matchbook program. What this means is that when you buy a copy of the trade paperback for Circle of Witches, you’ll also be able to download a free copy of the e-book from Amazon.

This is a pretty nifty program. It doesn’t look like a lot of books are using it yet (and most are still charging for the e-book instead of offering it for free), so I’m excited that mother’s book can be a part of it. We’re investigating the possibility of making other books available through the program, but that’s tougher because different publishers control the Frevisse and Joliffe books currently in print.

– Justin

The Prioress's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The Prioress’ Tale has been released for both the Kindle and the Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using either the free Kindle Reading Apps or the free Nook Apps for those platforms. It will also be available through the iBookstore shortly, but Apple takes much longer to process new e-books than Amazon or B&N.


Under the harsh hand of its newly elected prioress, St. Frideswide’s has become a place of deadly sin. The corruption has grown subtly and slowly, but it has found fertile soil in the rage and greed of Domina Alys, who has turned the priory into a boarding house for her relatives, the Godfreys. Dame Frevisse is horrified to discover that the modest stores of the priory – desperately needed if the nuns are to survive the coming winter – are being completely consumed by the rapacious Godfrey clan.

But the Godfreys bring with them more immediate terrors: Torture. Madness. Kidnapping. Murder. The sanctuary of the cloister has been violated and even the holy rites of the nuns have been ripped apart.

Despite the growing crisis, Frevisse’s best efforts to save the nunnery from itself are met with scorn and torment as bitter hatreds and old rivalries turn nun against nun. Suspicion, paranoia, and despair clutch the cloister’s heart. If Frevisse cannot unlock the riddles of penitence for her prioress and for herself, then St. Frideswide’s may be no more…

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“When this series debuted, its publisher hailed Frazer as the logical successor to Ellis Peters… With a number of strong books already under her belt, Frazer may actually make her publisher’s dream come true.” – Star Tribune

“Often chastised for her disobedience and made to do penance, Sister Frevisse’s curious nature still wins out as she uses logic and her intelligence to sleuth with the best of them.” – Rendezvous

“Frazer is writing one of the most consistently excellent historical series in print today.” – Murder Ink

“Clearly, the setting is the star here, and Frazer is generous with her details of abbey life.” – Publishers Weekly

“Margaret Frazer continues her splendid series of medieval mysteries… She has a sure grasp of the realities of medieval life: Its careless cruelty, effortless hypocrisy – particularly in matters of religion – and its disregard for women who could wield influence only in the most indirect ways.” – MLB News

The Prioress’ Tale was the the first of the Dame Frevisse books that I wrote alone. My co-author and I had discussed rough ideas for the story, and I had shaped the plot and written a first draft of the first three or four chapters when she decided she was tired of medieval England and bowed out of the series, leaving the book (and the series) to me.

Since I always wrote the first draft of all our books by myself, there was no trouble in simply continuing onward. Or not much trouble, except the small one that through writing six books together, my co-author and I had developed not only a smooth modus operandi but a deep familiarity with what each of us preferred in a story. I knew what she would object to and want changed, and she knew the same about me. Now there was just me, with no one to change how I chose to tell the story and deal with the characters. It was all mine! But did I take that heady breath of freedom and run with it? Not quite. Not immediately.

I’m still amused to remember how, instead, I found myself all through the first draft continuously “looking over my shoulder,” second-guessing myself on what my co-author would have had to say about this or that or the other thing that I was doing. But of course she was not there, and I confess I eventually settled happily to entirely following my own desires regarding characters and plot, both in The Prioress’ Tale and all the books that follow it.

– Margaret

Lowly Death - Margaret Frazer

“Lowly Death” has been released for the Kindle and Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using the free Kindle Reading Apps for those platforms.


Come down the Paternoster Passage, cross the church’s yard, and knock on the doors of Master Whittington’s Almshouse. Master Pecock, a man of the cloth and the greatest detective of 15th century London, will answer your call.

Just as he answers Dick Colop’s call. The mother of young Colop’s friend has slipped, fallen, and died. But something doesn’t feel right about it. There’s a strange uneasiness creeping at the back of Colop’s mind.

And then there was the matter of the candle.

It was in the kitchen. A burned down stub of a candle. It had rolled under a table. And left a thick splattering of wax on the floor a foot or so away.

That was enough. Master Pecock was on the scent. The scent of lies. The scent of wrongs. The scent of murder.

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“Lowly Death” is the third tale of Bishop Pecock, coming after “Heretical Murder” and after “The Simple Logic of It”. It was first published in Murder Most Catholic, edited by Ralph McInerny. Master Pecock has advanced in his priestly career and is now head of the well-endowed Whittington Almshouses in London.  Rather than the tendrils of national crime, here he deals with a domestic matter.

The plot came – as so many of my plots do – from an actual medieval situation.  I will often be innocently reading some scholarly study or else the documents themselves, when something catches at the criminally-inclined corner of my mind and I suddenly ask, “Yes, but what if…” and away I’ll be, the twisty mind of a mystery writer turning what – in the document – was a perfectly straightforward business matter into a full-blooded (and usually bloody) convolution of human relationships and situations. And when I look back from the finished story to the innocent document that started at all, I’ll often be surprised at how far the transmutation of imagination has taken the original few facts.

One small but continually niggling thing stays with me from this story: The editor’s note at the beginning of the anthology.  There Mr. McInerny stated that, although the story “uses medieval setting for color, it remains a thoroughly modern deductive mystery”. In fact, the methods of deduction used in the story are perfectly medieval, drawn directly from the methods of deduction outlined by Master Pecock himself in his own works of circa 1450, wherein he urged people to seek truth through the use of reason and demonstrated how to do it, very much in the way he uses logic and reason in this story.

– Margaret

Heretical Murder - Margaret Frazer

“Heretical Murder” has been released for the Kindle and Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using the free Kindle Reading Apps for those platforms.


Questionable matters? Strange deaths? Mysteries most foul? The cleverest man in 15th century England lives at Master Whittington’s Almshouse! Turn right off College Hill Street, go through the narrow Paternoster Passage, and knock on the third door on the left.

Dick Colop, student and scrivener, knows those directions well. They take him to the quiet study of Sire Pecock, priest of the Church and scholar of both man and book. A man has been cut down in the busy streets of London. The sheriff thinks it nothing more than a tavern brawl, but Colop knows that he never made it through the door.

A terrible accident or something worse? Sire Pecock will follow the dark and murderous ways of heresy to find the truth of sin.

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“Heretical Murder” was originally written for the Mammoth Book of More Historical Whodunits. (Which was published as the Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits in England; which is not to be confused with the previous volume of the exact same name which contained a completely different set of stories including “The Witch’s Tale”.  I take no responsibility for the vague ways of publishers.)

I don’t remember why the allowed word-count for this story was so high, but I took full advantage of it to write a story that roamed through the streets of London, keeping company with one of my favorite people from the 1400s – the scholar and churchman Reynold Pecock (otherwise called “Reginald” by modern scholars).

He had crossed my path more than once in my years of research and reading but never caught my interest until I attended a session at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and heard two scholars – Stephen E. Lahey and Brent Moberley — discussing Bishop (as he became) Pecock.  Talking with them afterwards, I confessed that, rather than a legitimate scholar, I wrote medieval murder mysteries.  After what I read as a startled pause, they both declared with delight that Bishop Pecock would make a great detective.

Somewhat taken aback by the idea but intrigued by what they had been saying about him, I set to taking a longer, deeper look at Reynold Pecock, even going so far as to read some of his religious treatises in Middle English.  I found him a delightful, interesting, complex man and knew I had to use him in a story or – better yet — stories.
This particular one is chronologically the first of the three short stories in which he figures and finds him early in his career in London after a long while as a scholar and teacher at the University of Oxford.

The uprising that is a background to this story is historical, and it may be worthwhile to note that although the use of the word “pamphlet” forty years before the introduction of printing to England may jar with some readers, it is not an anachronism.  It is the actual word used in a contemporary chronicle regarding Lollard activities in London at this time.  More than that, the copying of books was indeed a commercial enterprise in London at the time, and a family named Colop was prominent in it.

– Margaret

The Murderer's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The Murderer’s Tale has been released for both the Kindle and the Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using either the free Kindle Reading Apps or the free Nook Apps for those platforms. It will also be available through the iBookstore shortly, but Apple takes much longer to process new e-books than Amazon or B&N.


Caught under the tyrannical thumb of her new prioress, Dame Frevisse finds welcome relief in leaving St. Frideswide nunnery on pilgrimage. But the road brings with it unwelcome company: The wealthy Lionel Knyvet has been possessed by a foul demon. Seeking relief from the horrific terrors visited upon his body each fortnight, Lionel has dragged his entire household on an endless pilgrimage across the breadth and length of England. Frevisse wants nothing more than the peaceful bliss of travel, but must instead endure the incessant chattering of a mob.

Lionel’s possession, however, may only mask a darker sin. When the pilgrims make their way to the manor house at Minster Lovell, Frevisse begins to unwind the bitter poisons of jealousy and betrayal eating at the hearts of both Lionel and his brother Giles. Against her will, the innocent nun is drawn into the vilest depths of the human soul and there she unlocks the mysteries of a blackened heart. But even when the truth comes out, can justice be done? The pure of heart will find no peace when murder and death come knocking at the manor’s door…

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“Frazer has created the most despicable villain since Iago.” – Patricia W. Julius, Detective as Historian

“Historical readers will be charmed with the story; feminists will be delighted with the strong female characters. Ellis Peters has a worthy successor in Margaret Frazer.” – Meritorious Mysteries

“Expertly captures the flavor of the period with vivid descriptions and creates dimensional characters true to the times.” – Rendezvous

“A diabolically smooth and logical frame-up… Frazer springs substantial surprises. A moving portrait of how afflictions torment body and mind and a meditation on selfless friendship. It’s a treat, with memorable characters and a thoughtful, bittersweet ending.” – S.M. Tyson, The Armchair Detective

The Murderer’s Tale was the last book that my then-co-author and I wrote together, before she gave up on medieval England and went to cozy needlework shop mysteries.  We planned the book together, meaning from the very first to tell the story from the murderer’s point of view, and thereby came the parting of our ways, I think.  She had always said she wanted to write light murder mysteries, murder mysteries that were essentially cheerful – what are now called cozies.  I seem to be of a darker nature; nothing about murder seems cozy to me, and when – as was our wont – I began the first draft of Murderer’s inside the title character’s head, it was a nasty place to be.  Given the crimes Mary and I had planned for him, how could it be otherwise?  Nor did he get any nicer as the book went on.  Unfortunately, he proved too much for Mary.  She hated him so much that she finally refused to have anything to do with his chapters at all.

Now I have said elsewhere that I don’t identify with only my main character – that I identify with all my characters, turning inward on myself to find some part of me that — if cultivated instead of bypassed – could become what this character is.  Then I explore that part of me, and it becomes the warp on which I weave a character.  So exploring and creating Giles was not a pleasant experience for me.  Nor was doing the same with Domina Alys in the next book.  But it seems to me that if I am going to write about murder, then if the story is going to be worth telling at all, I have to look at the ugliness within a murderer, and not only the ugliness within a murderer, but the cruel changes that ugliness makes in the lives of the people around him or her.  Hence, as Dame Frevisse is forced to deal with murders over the years, she grows and deepens.  And because, through her, I have had to look far closer and deeper in the dark hearts of murderers (meaning into the dark corners of my own heart, as it were), I’ve grown and changed, too, have come to value kindness and generosity of spirit with far more passion that before and have a very focused hatred of cruelty.

This leads to occasional odd moments, such as when – working at the rewrite of a later book in the series – I found myself railing at the murderer for the cruel, vile, treacherous way he had killed his victim.  How could he do such an ugly thing?  How could he . . .  Oh.  Wait.  I was the one who had written the scene that way.  The whole thing was my fault.

So maybe it’s best if you just forget what I’ve said above about me being part of all my characters.  It could make the next time we meet rather awkward if you find yourself wondering “Who is she today?”

– Margaret

The Stone-Worker's Tale - Margaret Frazer

“The Stone-Worker’s Tale” has been released for the Kindle and Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using the free Kindle Reading Apps for those platforms.


When Frevisse is given bishop-pardoned leave to visit her cousin Alice at Ewelme, she is enchanted by the work of the sculptor Simon Maye. Charged with carving the angels upon Alice’s tomb, Simon has been truly touched by God’s gift – there was an otherworldiness to their stone features, an aliveness to the very feathers of their wings. He saw beauty that others could not, and brought it to life through his craft.

But Simon also saw the beauty of Elyn, one of Alice’s ladies in waiting. Clandestine meetings have given way to sinful lust, and now the two lovers have disappeared. The servants whisper that the lovers have eloped, and secretly pine for the passion to do the same. Lady Alice believes her sculptor has been stolen away by jealous rivals and rages at the injustice. But Frevisse alone suspects there may be some darker truth behind the midnight vanishing…

Kindle Edition Nook Edition

As a special feature, this e-book also contains a Lost Tale of Dame Frevise… sort of.

By the late 1990’s several of my Dame Frevisse novels had been translated into German. As a result, I was asked to write a short mystery story for a German-language Swiss magazine. And when I say “short”, I mean short: It could only be 800 words long. The magazine, sold mainly in railway stations, was publishing stories of this length with the idea they would be short enough for readers to complete during a commuter train ride.

To help me understand what they were looking for, my agent kindly sent me a sample story provided by the magazine. Being in German, this was not as helpful as it might have been: I don’t read German. A teacher of German at my son’s school kindly looked it over and gave me the gist of it, which did help insofar as it confirmed that, yes, it was a short murder mystery. I gave him a copy of one of my books in a German edition in return for his help and buckled down to the unusual challenge.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to actually write it in German. (It would be translated by the magazine publishers.) The tricky part (besides the fact that I tend to be verbose) was less the story itself (although that had to be tricksy, too) but the fact that in a history mystery a sense of a different time and place have to be established along with everything else. Creating time and place take up a lot of words, and then there has to be some presentation of characters and a mystery and a solution, altogether making for a rather intricate challenge.

But when it was done and shipped off to Switzerland, the story continued dancing in my mind. It felt too short in some ways. The first rush of notes I had made for it had far more in the way of characters and relationships than were possible to use in the given word-count, and even after the necessary ruthless cutting the itch to further explore those characters and relationships stayed with me. A few years later, when Mike Ashley asked me for a story for one of his anthologies, I took the chance to expand the tale to its full and proper length. Hence “The Stone-Worker’s Tale”.

“The Sculptor’s Tale”, on the other hand, has remained unpublished in its original form since it first appeared in that Swiss magazine. And the English version has never been publicly available until today!

– Margaret

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