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The Bookseller's Tale by Ann Swinfen
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The Bookseller's Tale

by Ann Swinfen

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936199,063 (3.8)23
Oxford, Spring 1353. When young bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon floating in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicholas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicholas and his scholar friend Jordain try to unravel what lies behind William's death, they learn that he was innocently caught up in a criminal plot. When their investigations begin to involve town, university, and abbey, Nicholas takes a risky gamble - and puts his family in terrible danger.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Pleasant historical mystery. ( )
  KateSavage | Mar 29, 2019 |
A light enjoyable Medieval mystery. The mystery so predictable at the beginning proved to be a bit less predictable at the end. The book does a nice job of weaving details of medieval life in Oxford England into the story. I will read another. ( )
  yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
First in the Oxford Medieval Mysteries series, The Bookseller’s Tale follows the adventures of Nicholas Elyot, the titular Bookseller, as he investigates a mysterious death in Oxford, 1353. Elyot discovers a young university man dead in the River Cherwell, and quickly comes to understand the young man did not die a natural death. As Nicholas and friend Jordain look into the death, they discover a plot involving a priceless Irish psalter, blackmail, an artistic nun, and greedy aristocrats.
Swinfen includes A LOT of geographical description here, which I found off-putting. I read the e-book version, so am wondering if a map of old Oxford is included in the print edition, which would make the description less tedious and confusing. Beyond that minor annoyance, I found an entertaining story full of colorful, well-drawn characters. Nicholas Elyot and his household – sister Margaret, children Alysoun and Rafe, and puppy Rowan – are nicely detailed and their backstory told succinctly and with sensitivity. Nicholas and the rest of Oxford are recovering from the plague years where so many died, including Nicholas’ wife and Margaret’s family. Nicholas’ bookshop provides a wonderful backdrop to the story, and Swinfen is not stingy in including fascinating tidbits of information about the early (pre-printing press) days of book-making.
The plot itself meanders a bit, but is eventually all tied up nicely. I finished the book wanting more, and will definitely move on to The Novice’s Tale, where the enigmatic Sr. Benedicta plays a larger role.
Recommended for fans of historical mysteries, especially those by Ellis Peters.
( )
  patriciau | Dec 27, 2018 |
All in all this was an enjoyable read. I thought the mystery aspect of this was good. Perhaps not surprisingly (given the title), books play a significant role, which was of course a bonus. There were a few twists along the way which I didn't see coming, though perhaps others might. I also really liked the historical detail; I enjoyed learning about medieval Oxford, the university, and Nicholas' work as a bookseller, which I found really interesting. However, although I thought these details seemed to fit quite naturally into the story, I can see that some readers might find them distracting from the main mystery. I didn't think the characterisation was as good; the main characters were all likeable enough by none of them really seemed to come to life. I'm hoping they might develop more in later books. ( )
  daisy_may | Nov 8, 2017 |
The Bookseller’s Tale - Swinfen
Audio performance by Philip Battley
3.5 stars

I liked this book. It’s a promising start to a medieval mystery series. It is set in Oxford in 1353. The bookseller, Nicholas Elyot finds the body of a promising scholar floating in the Cherwell. He finds the killer with the help of his friend, Jordain, an Oxford don. I enjoyed the details of 14th century book assembly and book dealing. The historical setting is also rich with descriptions of family life along with the devastating impact of the plague. The mystery itself was easy to solve, and while the amount of walking Nicholas was compelled to undertake was realistic, it was a tedious impediment to the plot. Philip Battley did a good job with the character voices. The music that accented the story was pleasant without being distracting.
I will definitely listen to more of this series. I was reminded of the Brother Cadfael series, easy listening with a colorful setting. ( )
  msjudy | Sep 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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