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The Nun’s Tale

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Nun’s Tale (1995) Candace Robb

The nun's TaleSet in England in 1365.

Joanna Calverley, a young nun, disappeared from her convent–taking part of an ancient relic with her. Archbishop Thorsby isn’t pleased to discover that Dame Isobel had neglected to tell him this–until the nun returns, claiming to have been resurrected.

Owen was sent out to help train archers for John of Gaunt, so the archbishop requests that he look into the incident with the nun while he’s in the area.

First, a note that many of the characters in this book are based upon real people, although often they were shifted in time and place to better fit the mystery. And there really was a woman named Joanna of Calverly. From the author notes:

In 1318 there is mention of [an] apostate, Joanna of Leeds. Archbishop Melton ordered the dean of Beverley to return the nun to her convent… Apparently Joanna had defected from her religious order and left the nunnery. However, in order to make her defection credible, she had fabricated her death at Beverley and, with the aid of accomplices, even staged her own funeral there. The archbishop was prepared to take a lenient view of these excesses. He directed the dean of Beverley to warn Joanna of the nature of her sins and, if she recanted them within eight days, to allow her to return to Clementhorpe to undergo a penance. Melton further urged the dean to undertake a thorough investigation of the case, and to discover the names of Joanna’s accomplices so that he might then take suitable action.

That is FASCINATING, although one hopes that life wasn’t as hard for the real Joanna as it was for the character in this book.

Returning to our main characters Lucie is pregnant, and Owen is conflicted, often missing the adventure of his life as Captain of Archers, but also seeing Lucie as in need of greater protection at this time, leading to more arguments between the two.

This is a rather disturbing mystery. Joanna is a complete mess, and no one can get a straight story from her, although she confides somewhat to Lucie, which is how both she and Owen are drawn into the mystery. Much, of course to Owen’s dismay.

Lucie examined her, Tom. Got her hands in all that blood. What will that do to the child, Lucie looking at all that blood? And the horror of it all? The nun stabbing herself.”

As much as Owen and Lucie argue, he does mostly get upset because he fears for her safety–and the safety of their child. And that is correct for the time and the type of man Owen would have been. And Owen may rail against the risks she takes, but he isn’t completely unreasonable. Mostly.

“I am not ill! Your mother had many children. You tell me she barely paused in her daily chores to give birth.”

“She was not dealing with madwomen.”

“She was dealing with you!”

“Well, if I am mad, it’s you who has driven me to it.”

One of the things I like is that the characters develop of the course of the series.

He had appointed Michaelo to the post more to keep an eye on him than to make use of him. As a monk of St. Mary’s, Michaelo had been led seriously astray by the former Archdeacon of York. But of late Michaelo had shown improvement. He was reliable, and kept his own counsel. Thoresby even detected some likable qualities in him— an amusing sense of humor. A quite unexpected development.

Michaelo was a relatively one-note character in the first story, but he has, not necessarily redeemed himself, but definitely become far more complicated and interesting.

I admit I could have done without some of the horrificness of this story, but at least I remembered the outlines of it, so it remained disturbing, but a little less shocking.

Publisher: Diversion Books
Rating: 7.5/10

Categories: British, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read     Comments (0)    



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