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The Merchant's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries) (Volume 4) Paperback – July 26, 2017
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About the Author
Ann Swinfen is the author of the highly acclaimed series, The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez. Set in the late sixteenth century, it features a young Marrano physician recruited as a code-breaker and spy in Walsingham’s secret service. In order, the books so far are: The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, The Enterprise of England, The Portuguese Affair, Bartholomew Fair, Suffer the Little Children, Voyage to Muscovy, The Play’s the Thing and That Time May Cease. Her Fenland Series takes place in East Anglia during the seventeenth century. In the first book, Flood, both men and women fight desperately to save their land from greedy and unscrupulous speculators. The second, Betrayal, continues the story of the dangerous search for legal redress and security for the embattled villagers, at a time when few could be trusted. Her latest series, Oxford Medieval Mysteries, is set in the fourteenth century and features bookseller Nicholas Elyot, a young widower with two small children, and his university friend Jordain Brinkylsworth, who are faced with crime in the troubled world following the Black Death. In order, the books are: The Bookseller’s Tale, The Novice’s Tale, The Huntsman’s Tale and The Merchant’s Tale. She has also written two standalone novels. The Testament of Mariam, set in the first century, recounts, from an unusual perspective, one of the most famous and yet ambiguous stories in human history, while exploring life under a foreign occupying force, in lands still torn by conflict to this day. This Rough Ocean is based on the real-life experiences of the Swinfen family during the 1640s, at the time of the English Civil War, when John Swynfen was imprisoned for opposing the killing of the king, and his wife Anne had to fight for the survival of her children and dependents. She now lives on the northeast coast of Scotland, with her husband, formerly vice-principal of the University of Dundee, a rescue cat called Maxi, and a cocker spaniel called Suki. You can receive notifications of new books and audios by signing up to the mailing list at www.annswinfen.com/sign-up/ Learn more at her website www.annswinfen.com
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There is a lot going on in Oxford with merchants arriving from all over England and Europe to sell their wares, and there is a feeling of tension, of something simmering as opening day draws closer. The first day at the Fair passes without incident but after the gates close for the night, serious trouble breaks out that could endanger the Town. The following day a fight breaks out at the jetty between the English and the French who are guarding the boats. A merchant from Flanders is attacked one night and then Nicholas and another man find a local vintner murdered in his own house. Shortly after that, serious trouble breaks out at St Frideswide’s priory and Deputy Sheriff Cedric Walden and his men arrive from the Castle. That is not the end of the troubles though, and Nicholas finds himself caught up in a very dangerous situation quite by chance.
The everyday happenings running parallel to the mystery and troubles, as they always do, combine to make Swinfen’s stories real. Dinners still need to be cooked, children still need to be looked after, there is still work that can be done in the bookshop, and Nicholas makes a new friend. Then there is all the excitement of children watching the strange and exotic at the Fair, eating gingerbread men and choosing a new toy. There are touches of humour here and there in the narrative and it is well-written and edited as usual. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn from Ann Swinfen’s books, and it never ceases to amaze me just how advanced in many thing the mediaevals were.
With her usual flair for descriptive prose, and her skill, not only for telling a splendid tale, but also for weaving historical facts throughout, Ann Swinfen has written the last of the Nicholas Elyot books set in 14th century Oxford, although I feel there are a few loose ends. (Maybe I am just sad there will be no more Nicholas books).
ETA: My mistake - there are more books to come.
Is immersed in the lives of ordinary people, primarily Nicholas' family and friends, as they prepare and sell goods at the Fair. There is also further development in the relationship between Nicholas and Emma and a possible future friendship with the merchant. A captivating novel.
Peter Winchingham, merchant, is a new character and I hope a new volume is being worked on that includes him. I suspect it will be so as he bought a manor in Leighton, Nicholas' home community not very far from Oxford.
The historical aspects of the St. Frideswide's fair and Priory are very important to me as a reader, as are all of Ann Swinfen's works. The inclusion of the Black Prince as a visitor to the Priory and Oxford was excellent. Does it presage more contacts between Nicholas and the Prince?
This one was wonderful and the newer characters I feel point to more outings for this group. A tremendously good read.
Most recent customer reviews
Great attnetion to historical facts while telling a great story.Read more