I think this is one of the best Dame Frevisse novels Margaret Frazer has written. “The Traitor’s Tale” takes Frevisse out of St. Frideswide for most of the novel (as usual) and puts her into the midst of the scandals and treasons of the lords surrounding King Henry VI.
Frevisse’s cousin Lady Alice de la Pole has once again summoned the good sister from her idyllic life in St. Frideswide to help her with a conundrum. The former duchess of Suffolk feels the enemies of her late husband, who was hated by just about everyone, may not be satisfied with his murder and might exact their revenge on her and her son. She feels Frevisse is the only one she can confide in.
Meanwhile, Joliffe is being sent on his own mission by the duke of York. The powers that surround the king are trying to discredit him and find evidence (i.e. make up something) to charge him with treason, truth and facts notwithstanding. It isn’t long before Joliffe and Frevisse meet and their paths become intertwined, whether they want them to or not.
The biggest mystery here is a letter, written by the duke of Suffolk, which supposedly calls out a number of people involved in a treasonous plot. The previous king, Henry V, scored a major victory over the French, but in a generation his son has lost everything. Not so much Henry VI’s fault as much as the corrupt, greedy lords around him.
Joliffe and Lady Alice’s man Vaughn risk a lot to find the letter and deliver it to the duke of York and Frevisse is right in the middle of it.
As Joliffe is nearly killed retrieving the letter but manages to get the letter to Frevisse, Frazer’s writing style turns from mystery to action. “The Traitor’s Tale” becomes an exciting page-turner. Toward the end I had trouble putting it down. Usually Frazer has twists and turns as Frevisse reveals ‘whodunit’, but the excitement builds as Frevisse, Joliffe and Vaughn near their destination.
Frazer takes Frevisse in a different path from her usual cozy murders and it works.