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The Bookseller's Tale

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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 tha 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.


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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 tha 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.

30 review for The Bookseller's Tale

  1. 5 out of 5

    Annet

    Quite an enjoyable and easily written Medieval crime mystery novel about young bookseller Nicolas Elyot and his two young kids in Oxford, living with his sister Margaret in the university city, his young wife having recently died of pestilence.... He makes a reasonable living creating and selling books in a city building up again after the pest struck. I would say 3.6ish. It's the start of a series and I will for sure return to read more of this writer. Those who enjoy reading historical novels, Quite an enjoyable and easily written Medieval crime mystery novel about young bookseller Nicolas Elyot and his two young kids in Oxford, living with his sister Margaret in the university city, his young wife having recently died of pestilence.... He makes a reasonable living creating and selling books in a city building up again after the pest struck. I would say 3.6ish. It's the start of a series and I will for sure return to read more of this writer. Those who enjoy reading historical novels, will enjoy this one too. 1353. When young bookseller Nicolas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicolas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicolas 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 investigation begins to involve town, university and abbey, Nicholas takes a risky gamble - and puts his family in terrible danger.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This turned out to be an interesting and entertaining start to a series of historical mysteries set in Oxford, England. Nicholas Elyot owns a bookshop in medieval Oxford. He lives with his sister and two small children after losing his wife to the black death. One day returning home he discovers a dead body in the river and thus begins his attempt to discover the identity of the murderer. I really enjoyed the author's style. She writes really well with some beautiful descriptions and she captures This turned out to be an interesting and entertaining start to a series of historical mysteries set in Oxford, England. Nicholas Elyot owns a bookshop in medieval Oxford. He lives with his sister and two small children after losing his wife to the black death. One day returning home he discovers a dead body in the river and thus begins his attempt to discover the identity of the murderer. I really enjoyed the author's style. She writes really well with some beautiful descriptions and she captures the feel of village life in those days perfectly. She has certainly done her research too and there is lots of really interesting detail about books at the time, and their method of construction and illustration. I enjoyed this one very much and look forward to the next book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This was an enjoyable historical mystery, the first of what promises to be an excellent series set in medieval Oxford. The black death has recently swept through Europe taking many lives including the beautiful young wife of bookseller Nicholas Elyot, leaving behind two young children. Nicholas is a former scholar and potential fellow of the University, but left to marry and work and work as a bookseller. As well as making copies of books, Nicholas and his apprentices sell parchment, pens and in This was an enjoyable historical mystery, the first of what promises to be an excellent series set in medieval Oxford. The black death has recently swept through Europe taking many lives including the beautiful young wife of bookseller Nicholas Elyot, leaving behind two young children. Nicholas is a former scholar and potential fellow of the University, but left to marry and work and work as a bookseller. As well as making copies of books, Nicholas and his apprentices sell parchment, pens and ink to the students and academics and rents out cheap copies of books to the students for their studies. When he finds the body of a student he knows floating in the river with blood on his clothes, he fears foul play and becomes involved in investigating what led to his death. I enjoyed that the history of the time was well researched and the everyday doings and lives of the characters felt authentic with many struggling to get back on their feet economically after the plague had taken so many lives. I'll be looking out for the next in the series and hopefully featuring the same characters that I've got to know.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex Cantone

    ‘With the Death and the French wars, the world is full of widows and orphans, these days’, she said sadly. While the current pandemic has taken over 5 million lives worldwide, it is sobering to think that the Black Death in 1346-53 killed between 70 million and 200 million people. The Booksellers Tale opens in spring 1353, at Oxford, where bookseller Nicholas Elyot lives with his two children and sister – the plague having taken their respective spouses. His is a thriving business, employing two ‘With the Death and the French wars, the world is full of widows and orphans, these days’, she said sadly. While the current pandemic has taken over 5 million lives worldwide, it is sobering to think that the Black Death in 1346-53 killed between 70 million and 200 million people. The Booksellers Tale opens in spring 1353, at Oxford, where bookseller Nicholas Elyot lives with his two children and sister – the plague having taken their respective spouses. His is a thriving business, employing two scriveners, despite the tardiness of the colleges in paying their bills, and he gives the reader an insight into university studies back in the day. When the students emerged from their morning lectures, the shop became busy as they crowded in to buy writing materials. Two of the older students came to return peciae of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Boethius’s Music. Both students had completed the fundamental courses of the Trivium- Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric – and were now studying the more advanced Quadrivium –Geometry, Music, Arithmetic and Astronomy, which also included additional reading in Philosophy. Mostly he travels on foot, avoiding the lanes and alleyways at night as it is far from safe, hiring a horse for longer journeys. He is walking home from a farm with a sack of feathers to make into quills when, as he crosses the East Bridge back into Oxford over the Cherwell, he sees a body in the river, recognising it as William Farringdon, a student at Hart Hall, who had done some work for him at one time. Nicholas is close friends with the Warden, Jordain Brinkylsworth, and after a struggle he manages to drag the body to the bank to prevent it being washed downstream into the Thames. When it is taken to the church for safekeeping until the coroners can judge the case, Nicolas checks the body and finds the youth has been stabbed from behind, a piece torn from his shirt found upstream. With no attacker found, and blame shifted to Nicholas for not raising the “hue and cry”, it is left to the two friends to seek justice and answers, bringing unwanted attention on Nicholas’ family. ‘The coroners are weary after so many deaths and want to forget this one. As for the constables…they are ordinary townsmen, appointed for a year, and, if many are like Edric Crowmer, they undertake the duties simply for the pleasure of bullying their fellows for breaking curfew or brawling or lying drunk in the street. They will not trouble themselves with pursuing an unknown killer when the coroners themselves have dismissed the matter.' While much of the book follows the search for the killers (and a rare book) author Ann Swinfen paints a vivid picture of the local scene, from Oxford’s colleges and shops, to the flour mills by the river, water meadows and streams, hedgerows alive with birds, the humming of bees, the trail leading to an abbey where a postulate nun keeps a secret. But the Black Death is never far from their thoughts, and Nicholas ponders on how some capitalised on the misfortunes of others. Established shortly before the pestilence struck the town, Queen’s College – named for our popular Queen Philippa – had been able, like many other colleges of the university, to take advantage of whole families wiped out, with properties within the town fallen vacant and going cheap. The colleges and the abbeys now owned the greater portion of the town, even where they had not yet built, but had shops and houses let out to tenants. I was grateful that my father-in-law had had the foresight to buy the freehold of our shop and house outright. Verdict: well-researched, beautifully written, with endearing characters.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    I liked the 14th century Oxford setting very much (and learned a few things about medieval bookmaking!) and the mystery was satisfying. I did think a few times that Nicholas Elyot missed some obvious clues but overall a series I would be interested in continuing...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This novel was pure pleasure. I find that I have increasingly less time to read books that I have chosen just for the joy of them, but this was one of them. In fact, I became so caught up in the story of tender Nicholas Elyot that I moved immediately on to the next in the series, The Novice's Tale. Unfortunately, now I am left simply hoping that Swinfen writes the next book quickly, because I am hooked. By setting the tale in 1353 Oxford, the author is able to explore some wonderful story element This novel was pure pleasure. I find that I have increasingly less time to read books that I have chosen just for the joy of them, but this was one of them. In fact, I became so caught up in the story of tender Nicholas Elyot that I moved immediately on to the next in the series, The Novice's Tale. Unfortunately, now I am left simply hoping that Swinfen writes the next book quickly, because I am hooked. By setting the tale in 1353 Oxford, the author is able to explore some wonderful story elements. Besides the thoroughly lovable characters, the reader is introduced to a city of learning at a time when books were scripted and bound by hand, death has devastated the country, and some see the way of life changing as labor proves scarce. Through Elyot's amateur investigation of a young scholar's murder, we are treated to an intimate look at 14th century Oxford and its surrounding countryside. The plague has passed, but it's shadow looms. "For those of us who survived, there remained a lingering fear of ever allowing ourselves to love anyone again, so fragile is life, so terrifying the sudden loss." Throughout both books, this theme of being careful where love is spent lies underneath the mystery. Nicholas lost his wife to the plague after he had given up a bright future for her. However, he never regrets his decision for a moment. Nicholas is thoughtful, devout, hardworking, generous, and about as perfect a man as one could hope for, as long as one is attracted to the soft-spoken man who is more attuned to the scent of ink and parchment than the gleam of sun upon a sword blade. I found myself wishing that I could visit his bookshop and watch his scriveners at work. His joy at discovering an expertly done illumination was contagious. His love of books is second only to his devotion to his family and friends. Against this wonderful backdrop, Swinfen paints a murder scene that tugs the heartstrings and awakens the cry for justice no less in the reader than in dear Nicholas. He was not prepared for the journey that he was set upon when he discovered a body in the twisting river enveloping his town, but I, for one, am enjoying being a part of his adventures.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    This is one of the books i picked to read during my campingtrip in France. Since i had an enormous reading dip, i chose books that were mostly not too difficult and don't require immense concentration. This one, a historic crime novel, seemed to meet the criteria. It is about widower Nicolas Elyot who lives in 14th Century Oxford. He is a bookseller. When one of the students is found murdered, Nicolas wants to find out what happened. Mostly because he knew the boy, who worked for him. But also b This is one of the books i picked to read during my campingtrip in France. Since i had an enormous reading dip, i chose books that were mostly not too difficult and don't require immense concentration. This one, a historic crime novel, seemed to meet the criteria. It is about widower Nicolas Elyot who lives in 14th Century Oxford. He is a bookseller. When one of the students is found murdered, Nicolas wants to find out what happened. Mostly because he knew the boy, who worked for him. But also because the murder seems to be connected with a very valuable illustrated book. The writer has obviously done her research concerning historical accuracy. What people eat, their daily chores, 14th Century tirades and customs, it is all in the book. Ann Swinfen paints this picture well. It's a fun read, but no more then that. I enjoyed it. I do have an issue with this book. Or actually two. I dislike it when a book is written using what is supposed to be some sort of medieval english. Usually, i don't understand the purpose and i find it distracting. Secondly, our master Elyot is extremely naive for an adult educated man who is living in a rough world filled with people who do not mind to use violence to get what they want. That makes the second part of the book, where some of the mystery is solved but no killer has been caught, a bit improbable. As a reader you can see the outcome almost after the first few pages. Do why doesn't our bookseller? Most annoying. Event though it has it's faults, i very much enjoyed this historical crime novel and will read others in this series.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shiloah

    I love a neat and tidy mystery. The setting is in the Middle Ages (another favorite of mine). Scrivener Nicholas Elyot is a likeable character. I love that their dog’s name is Rowan. We have a two-year-old red Golden Retriever also named Rowan and it made me smile the whole book that Rowan was a part. I loved this book and look forward to more in the series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    giveusaclue

    My first book written by Ann Swinfen and it won't be the last. The bookseller (Nicholas) in the title finds a body in the river. It turns out to be a student who did some writing for him in the past. The boy has been murdered but the town officials aren't very interested in investigating a "gown" murder. So that bookseller, a former student who gave up his studies for love. decides to investigate with the help of his academic friend Jordain. It transpires that the student has been copying a pric My first book written by Ann Swinfen and it won't be the last. The bookseller (Nicholas) in the title finds a body in the river. It turns out to be a student who did some writing for him in the past. The boy has been murdered but the town officials aren't very interested in investigating a "gown" murder. So that bookseller, a former student who gave up his studies for love. decides to investigate with the help of his academic friend Jordain. It transpires that the student has been copying a priceless salter which has been stolen from Merton College library. The book gives lovely descriptions of medieval Oxford, from the navigation around the town and surrounding countryside to the way of life after the devastating plague a few years previously which had robbed the bookseller of his wife. For anyone interested in "history mysteries" I can thoroughly recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    In the year 1353, life isn’t always easy for a bookshop owner on Oxford’s High Street. Money’s tight, with over half of the city’s residents dead from the recent plague; town-gown rivalries are common; and the university’s slow to pay its bills. “It was irksome,” says narrator Nicholas Elyot, “but the position of official bookseller to the university had the advantage of bringing in a regular income.” In Swinfen’s lively medieval mystery The Bookseller’s Tale (Shakenoak Press, 2016), Nicholas is In the year 1353, life isn’t always easy for a bookshop owner on Oxford’s High Street. Money’s tight, with over half of the city’s residents dead from the recent plague; town-gown rivalries are common; and the university’s slow to pay its bills. “It was irksome,” says narrator Nicholas Elyot, “but the position of official bookseller to the university had the advantage of bringing in a regular income.” In Swinfen’s lively medieval mystery The Bookseller’s Tale (Shakenoak Press, 2016), Nicholas is a youthful widower raising his son and daughter with the help of his sister, Margaret, who runs a tight household; both siblings had lost their spouses to the Black Death. Nicholas goes into crime-solving mode after finding the body of a student and former employee floating in the river Cherwell while walking home from an excursion to buy new quills. Why was William Farringdon wandering in the countryside so far from school, and who stabbed him in the back? Nicholas is an upright fellow with serious responsibilities, but he loves his children dearly. He’s also an expert in the book business and happily shares his knowledge about quality parchments, manuscript illumination, and smart sales techniques. He’s an inexperienced investigator, though. While some of the scrapes he gets into are very funny, others pose needlessly dangerous risks to himself and his family. He’s aided in his search for justice by his friend Jordain Brinkylsworth, Warden of Hart Hall, where William had lived. Swinfen illustrates merchant and university life in medieval Oxfordshire with a sure hand, and she gives Nicholas an intriguing backstory: he had left the celibate life of a scholar behind to marry a “shopkeeper’s wench,” his late wife, Elizabeth. Despite her early death and the resentment of some at the university, he doesn’t regret his decision. I wish this series a long and successful life. First published at Reading the Past.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kivrin

    This was a sweet little book. Set in 1300's in Oxford England, it's a fun, quick historical read. The main character is a book seller, and there is a lot of information about book making that I found fascinating. Probably a little too much description of Oxford for me, but the place did come alive. The mystery isn't that hard to figure out, and I found myself wondering how they were missing so many easy clues, but I loved the characters and the setting. If Swinfen continues this as a series, I th This was a sweet little book. Set in 1300's in Oxford England, it's a fun, quick historical read. The main character is a book seller, and there is a lot of information about book making that I found fascinating. Probably a little too much description of Oxford for me, but the place did come alive. The mystery isn't that hard to figure out, and I found myself wondering how they were missing so many easy clues, but I loved the characters and the setting. If Swinfen continues this as a series, I think I'll read the next one.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This was an okay story. I found the mystery aspect rather Micky Mouse-ish, as in it was far too easy to spot every clue and what each meant to the plot. I also found myself skimming paragraphs that were superfluous. Still, I'm glad I read it and I will probably try another. This was an okay story. I found the mystery aspect rather Micky Mouse-ish, as in it was far too easy to spot every clue and what each meant to the plot. I also found myself skimming paragraphs that were superfluous. Still, I'm glad I read it and I will probably try another.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    What I enjoyed about this book was its setting and the fact that the narrator was a 14th century bookseller. As far as the mystery…. it was pretty easy to figure out, unlike what usually happens when I read mysteries. Most of the time I miss all the important clues or fail to understand them. But it never makes any difference since I read mysteries for the ambience and the characters rather than the plot. And that’s exactly why I wanted to read this one. Swinfen has done a nice job filling in det What I enjoyed about this book was its setting and the fact that the narrator was a 14th century bookseller. As far as the mystery…. it was pretty easy to figure out, unlike what usually happens when I read mysteries. Most of the time I miss all the important clues or fail to understand them. But it never makes any difference since I read mysteries for the ambience and the characters rather than the plot. And that’s exactly why I wanted to read this one. Swinfen has done a nice job filling in details about life in the University town of Oxford in 1353 not long after the Plague had decimated the population. The book is narrated by Nicholas Elyot, a bookseller who had given up an Oxford fellowship in order to marry the daughter of a shopkeeper because in order to hold an academic position a man had to be a celibate. I once found a short poem written in the middle ages that spelled it out this way: A student at his books so placed that wealth he might have won. From book to wife did fly in haste, from wealth to woe did run. Now who hath played a feater cast since juggling first begun in knitting of himself so fast, himself he hath undone." For anyone who loves books, this novel is an interesting glimpse into what it was like when each book had to be laboriously written and illustrated by hand using carefully trimmed feather quills with costly inks on parchment made from animal skins and then bound in leather. As a result books were outrageously expensive and Oxford’s students couldn’t afford their own copies. Instead they went to bookshops like the one in this novel in order to rent peciae, specific sections of a manuscript that had been assigned for them to study. It’s interesting to think about how things have changed when you consider that these days you can read whatever you want without ever setting foot in a bookshop or even opening the pages of a book. Much as I enjoy the convenience I still prefer it the old way and even though I wouldn’t have been able to afford owning an illuminated manuscript like those in Nicholas Elyot’s shop, it would have been great just to have been able to do a little window shopping there.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I enjoyed this book for the Oxford history (14th Century), the history of book selling arts, binding and parchment making and early structure of the colleges requiring students to live in halls and the family life depicted after the plague took so many lives. The first-person narrative causes some plodding on to get to the action now and then, but I would think a younger reader would find it more illuminating perhaps. Even with the overly abundant explanation for every action and reaction, and m I enjoyed this book for the Oxford history (14th Century), the history of book selling arts, binding and parchment making and early structure of the colleges requiring students to live in halls and the family life depicted after the plague took so many lives. The first-person narrative causes some plodding on to get to the action now and then, but I would think a younger reader would find it more illuminating perhaps. Even with the overly abundant explanation for every action and reaction, and my own impatience in plodding through it - I look forward to reading the next book of the series featuring Nicholas the bookseller. In this first book, Nicholas is the first finder of a young man who has been murdered and Nicholas and his friend methodically untangle the circumstances that led to this death as it seems there is no one else who cares. The murder is connected to a priceless Irish illuminated Psalter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    JoLene

    3.5 stars Oxford England is still reeling from the devastating effects of the plague in the 1350's. Nicholas Elyot is a bookseller, who young wife died leaving him with 2 young children. While out "running errands", Nicholas discovers the body of an Oxford student in the river -- a young man that he had employed as a scrivener. When Nicholas notices a cut in the boy's clothing, he is determined to find out what happened to the boy. This historical mystery series is very heavy on the historical det 3.5 stars Oxford England is still reeling from the devastating effects of the plague in the 1350's. Nicholas Elyot is a bookseller, who young wife died leaving him with 2 young children. While out "running errands", Nicholas discovers the body of an Oxford student in the river -- a young man that he had employed as a scrivener. When Nicholas notices a cut in the boy's clothing, he is determined to find out what happened to the boy. This historical mystery series is very heavy on the historical detail, which I enjoyed. Nicholas, the main narrator is a very interesting character -- he left his studies at Oxford for love, which did cause some hard feelings. The author did a great job of weaving in the day to day life of medieval England as well as highlighting the how the plague impacted the town of Oxford. The mystery was also interesting. The secondary characters were also well rounded. I am looking forward to continuing with the series.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cea

    Interesting characters I'm a historical mystery junkie. I got hooked long ago by Brother Cadfael and have been indulging myself ever since. I'm not particular about the period but the history has to be good. This author has her history down pat, she calls forth the ambience of the time and is peopling her medieval Oxford with interesting characters. The plot was tight and moved along nicely. I look forward to additions to the story of Nicholas Elyot. Interesting characters I'm a historical mystery junkie. I got hooked long ago by Brother Cadfael and have been indulging myself ever since. I'm not particular about the period but the history has to be good. This author has her history down pat, she calls forth the ambience of the time and is peopling her medieval Oxford with interesting characters. The plot was tight and moved along nicely. I look forward to additions to the story of Nicholas Elyot.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Colin Mitchell

    This novel, the first in the Oxford Medieval Mystery series, was a refreshing experience. Here is a well crafted plot surrounding Nicholas Elyot, bookseller and former student, and his friend Jourdain Brinkylsworth Master of Hart Hall as the seek to discover the truth about William Farringdon's death. The author, herself an academic, shoes an excellent knowledge of Oxford, its history and the times following the Black Death epidemic. You can feel yourself following the cast about Oxford and the s This novel, the first in the Oxford Medieval Mystery series, was a refreshing experience. Here is a well crafted plot surrounding Nicholas Elyot, bookseller and former student, and his friend Jourdain Brinkylsworth Master of Hart Hall as the seek to discover the truth about William Farringdon's death. The author, herself an academic, shoes an excellent knowledge of Oxford, its history and the times following the Black Death epidemic. You can feel yourself following the cast about Oxford and the surrounding area even the aches and pains following a days riding in the countryside. Excellent use of English, a story written in complete sentences, and produced in a book that appeared to have been properly proof read before publication. A wonderful illuminated cover. A very good read and recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Egbert

    The first book of the year is the only book I got as a gift on Christmas day. That seems appropriate! I really loved this one. I love the obvious research that the author has completed. The story is not anything fast paced but it is a good mystery with characters that I like. I really came away appreciating so many of the comforts and luxuries that are mine on a daily basis, especially the availability of books! A couple of quotes I want to remember: "Because of the unpleasant nature of much of th The first book of the year is the only book I got as a gift on Christmas day. That seems appropriate! I really loved this one. I love the obvious research that the author has completed. The story is not anything fast paced but it is a good mystery with characters that I like. I really came away appreciating so many of the comforts and luxuries that are mine on a daily basis, especially the availability of books! A couple of quotes I want to remember: "Because of the unpleasant nature of much of their craft, parchment makers are sometimes regarded with a kind of scorn, yet without them there would be no books, without books there would be no scholars. Indeed, there would be little to raise us above the level of talking beasts." "Dafydd's English was perfect, since he had lived in Oxford for all his adult life, but he had never lost the sing-song inflection of his native land, his sentences soared and dipped like music, like the hills and valleys of Wales."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Woods

    Excellent historical novel I've recently been on an Ann Swinfen kick....when I find a good writer, historic background and interesting, original plot it's bliss! Definite recommendation and much praise to this author as she brings into life of the 14th century England. Excellent historical novel I've recently been on an Ann Swinfen kick....when I find a good writer, historic background and interesting, original plot it's bliss! Definite recommendation and much praise to this author as she brings into life of the 14th century England.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Terry Tyler

    I'm such a fan of Ann Swinfen, and this book lived up to my expectations ~ don't ignore all those book promotion tweets flying past on Twitter, it's how I discovered her! This is a cosy sort of murder mystery set in Oxford, in which bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of a student from the university floating in the river. Sure he was murdered, Nicholas takes it upon himself to solve the crime. I felt the plot came second place to the historical interest of the story, which suited me fin I'm such a fan of Ann Swinfen, and this book lived up to my expectations ~ don't ignore all those book promotion tweets flying past on Twitter, it's how I discovered her! This is a cosy sort of murder mystery set in Oxford, in which bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of a student from the university floating in the river. Sure he was murdered, Nicholas takes it upon himself to solve the crime. I felt the plot came second place to the historical interest of the story, which suited me fine. The book is intricately researched, and serves as an education about the time, in the most enjoyable way possible. Beautifully written, I could imagine every scene, whether in the busy streets of the town, in the cottages, the university grounds, the dark alleys on the dangerous side of town, the roads out to Banbury, or the lanes out to the water mills. The time of the book was of added interest to me because it takes place just a short while after the Great Plague has died out; I learned much about the long-term effects of this pestilence. Interesting to read a post apocalyptic story from over 600 years ago; I suspect the people of the time dealt with it better than we would now, mostly because they were already equipped with the skills they would need. The characters are real people, and, as with Ms Swinfen's other books, I felt sad when I'd finished it and eager to read more. Highly recommended to all readers of well researched, literary historical fiction, and especially to anyone with a particular interest in the history of story writing, bookbinding and selling, and, of course, the history of Oxford.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    A pleasurable mystery to spend some hours attending.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I liked this book a great deal and plan to get the second book in the series to continue with it. Setting the stage for the characters and the location slowed down the reading of the book early on, but the history was excellent as was the characterization. The stage is set for an unusual historical era, Spring 1353 in Oxford is just past the plague or Black Death which took the lives of many. Nicholas Elyot, bookseller, scrivener and former scholar and University fellow is discussing with his mot I liked this book a great deal and plan to get the second book in the series to continue with it. Setting the stage for the characters and the location slowed down the reading of the book early on, but the history was excellent as was the characterization. The stage is set for an unusual historical era, Spring 1353 in Oxford is just past the plague or Black Death which took the lives of many. Nicholas Elyot, bookseller, scrivener and former scholar and University fellow is discussing with his motherless children the possibility of adopting a puppy. His sister Margaret, also bereaved and childless , who serves as his housekeeper was against the idea but they agree to give it a try. Later that day as he was coming from Yardleys farm for goosefeather quills for his business he passed over a bridge and came upon a young man floating and dead in the Cherwell River. Two lay brothers of St. John's Hospital help him pull out William Farringdon. Was he a suicide? Was it a murder ? The crime would occupy his and his friend Jordain as well as his employees in a variety of ways. Nicholas children and sister, as well as family members of the deceased become at risk as the tale unravels. Recommended for Medieval mystery fans with fine period detail.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    "The bookseller's Tale" is book one in the Oxford Medieval Mysteries by Ann Swinfen. Oxford University bookseller Nicholas Elyot found the body of a young Oxford University student William Farringdon floating in the Cherwell river. At first, everyone thought it was suicide. However, Nicholas Elyot found evidence that William Farringdon death was murder. Nicholas Elyot started to investigate. The readers of "The Bookseller's Tale" will continue to follow Nicholas Elyot investigation into the deat "The bookseller's Tale" is book one in the Oxford Medieval Mysteries by Ann Swinfen. Oxford University bookseller Nicholas Elyot found the body of a young Oxford University student William Farringdon floating in the Cherwell river. At first, everyone thought it was suicide. However, Nicholas Elyot found evidence that William Farringdon death was murder. Nicholas Elyot started to investigate. The readers of "The Bookseller's Tale" will continue to follow Nicholas Elyot investigation into the death of William to find out what happens. "The Bookseller's Tale" is an exciting book to read and the first book I have read of Ann Swinfen. I love Ann Swinfen portrayal of her characters and the way they all interacted with each other throughout the book. "The Bookseller's Tale" is well written and researched by Ann Swinfen that allow me to transported back in time. Ann Swinfen did an excellent job of describing her settings. The readers of "The Bookseller's Tale" will learn about living in Oxford in the 13th century. Also, the readers of "The Bookseller's Tale" will learn about the role of the official bookseller for Oxford University. I recommend this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Loretta

    This is a deliciously descriptive tale, which brings medieval England vividly to life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Graeme

    I'm a bit of a sucker for historical murder mysteries, and this one drew me in right from the start. It's well written, and the evocation of a newly suspicious and dangerous Oxford still reeling from the Black Death is strong. It certainly seems like the author has put substantial effort into recreating the town and the descriptions are vivid. I was particularly fascinated by the workings of the bookshop which is central to the plot, as well as the wider process of book-making, from production o I'm a bit of a sucker for historical murder mysteries, and this one drew me in right from the start. It's well written, and the evocation of a newly suspicious and dangerous Oxford still reeling from the Black Death is strong. It certainly seems like the author has put substantial effort into recreating the town and the descriptions are vivid. I was particularly fascinated by the workings of the bookshop which is central to the plot, as well as the wider process of book-making, from production of parchment to scribing to binding. While a bookseller in Oxford might not be considered 'lower class' by any means, it is nice not to be dealing with high-level political machinations. This sets it apart from similar books I have read over the last few years, where often the protagonist is politically well-connected or high ranking in some way. This made for a refreshing change of pace. One thing that might have helped would be a map of the town and the location of other places in relation to Oxford, as there is a lot of wandering about between places. I was reading this on Kindle, so it's possible this exists in the printed version.* I sometimes found it difficult to follow the routes taken, particularly the makeup of rivers in the vicinity, and these seemed like they might be easier to follow for someone more familiar with the town. That's quite a minor criticism, however. Nicholas Elyot, the former academic who threw it all in for ultimately doomed love, is a sympathetic and engaging central character. His situation between the Town and the Colleges, being snubbed by many academics despite their reliance upon him, leads to some tense interactions and complications in his solving the case. Sometimes he comes across as a little too fundamentally Good, with his frequent largesse which doesn't really fit with a man trying to run a business. He is also at times slightly naive in how quickly he takes people into his confidence when investigating, and I was surprised this didn't really have any consequences in the story. I look forward to seeing if/how his character develops in later books. Towards the end the book seems a little rushed, with a couple of rather fortunate occurrences which lead to a slightly premature conclusion. I don't know if this was perhaps due to editing or length restrictions. Nevertheless it is certainly an enjoyable book, and I would recommend anyone who is keen on this genre to try it out. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. *I now feel like a complete Philistine, given that so much of the book quite rightly indulges in descriptions about how important books are and how reading them is so rewarding...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    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. Swinfe 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan I

    My review does contain a minor spoiler. This is a well written murder mystery, VERY well set in the period immediately following an outbreak of plague in Oxford. Dialogue is a bit saccharine at times. The mystery is well maintained, the reader is outstanding. My hangup and spoiler is this. Sometimes, a plot twist is glaringly transparent, except to the hero. This level of stupidity is a shame, especially in such a throwaway manner as follows: The hero is tracking the perpetrators. They attack him. My review does contain a minor spoiler. This is a well written murder mystery, VERY well set in the period immediately following an outbreak of plague in Oxford. Dialogue is a bit saccharine at times. The mystery is well maintained, the reader is outstanding. My hangup and spoiler is this. Sometimes, a plot twist is glaringly transparent, except to the hero. This level of stupidity is a shame, especially in such a throwaway manner as follows: The hero is tracking the perpetrators. They attack him. Try to kill him. Threaten harm to his sister. Threaten harm to his family with a deadline. That, to ANY normal person, is not the time to let your 6 year old child walk the dog. When the child then goes missing, on schedule as threatened by the villans,, our hero wanders the streets for hours, hoping his daughter is looking for her lost dog....really? Other than the silly behavior and maudlin use of children, the story is great.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    Reminiscent of Brother Cadfael this historical mystery is set in Oxford, England in 1353. Our bookseller, Nicholas Elyot, has drawn his sister to his hearth after the loss of her husband and sons; after the loss of his beloved wife as well, from the Black Death. There are two thriving children and a puppy so this would be a quite pleasant experience of the daily workings of medieval life if Nicholas hadn't gotten himself involved in investigating the murder of a talented student whose body he fi Reminiscent of Brother Cadfael this historical mystery is set in Oxford, England in 1353. Our bookseller, Nicholas Elyot, has drawn his sister to his hearth after the loss of her husband and sons; after the loss of his beloved wife as well, from the Black Death. There are two thriving children and a puppy so this would be a quite pleasant experience of the daily workings of medieval life if Nicholas hadn't gotten himself involved in investigating the murder of a talented student whose body he finds drifting down the Cherwell River. You get to learn about book construction prior to the invention of the printing press- parchment making, scrivening, illumination, binding. You learn a bit about the organization of Oxford's early colleges. And yes, of course, there is a murder to be solved. Very much enjoyed by me, and recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    Quite an enjoyable introduction to a new mystery series. Set in Oxford about 100 years before Guttenberg's famous printing press. Nicholas Eylot is a local bookmaker and seller who discovers the body of a young Oxford student in the river. As is usual, the dead body is just a vehicle for discovering a new place and time. This was a nice way to read about life in medieval England and the different relationships between the university and the town. Nicholas' connection with the university was part Quite an enjoyable introduction to a new mystery series. Set in Oxford about 100 years before Guttenberg's famous printing press. Nicholas Eylot is a local bookmaker and seller who discovers the body of a young Oxford student in the river. As is usual, the dead body is just a vehicle for discovering a new place and time. This was a nice way to read about life in medieval England and the different relationships between the university and the town. Nicholas' connection with the university was particularly interesting. He had been a student there, but left to marry. Because of this, he has access to both parts of Oxford. I'm looking forward to reading the 2nd in the series and seeing how many of these characters develop.

  30. 5 out of 5

    annapi

    This was an okay medieval mystery featuring bookseller Nicholas Elyot, who discovers the body of an Oxford student. With the help of his friend, Jordain, the student's teacher, he tries to find the killer and finds more trouble than he bargains for. This was paced rather slowly, and only picks up in the second half of the book. I liked the historical aspects of it, the history of Oxford college revealed in bits and pieces throughout the book, as well as the details of bookmaking. The mystery was This was an okay medieval mystery featuring bookseller Nicholas Elyot, who discovers the body of an Oxford student. With the help of his friend, Jordain, the student's teacher, he tries to find the killer and finds more trouble than he bargains for. This was paced rather slowly, and only picks up in the second half of the book. I liked the historical aspects of it, the history of Oxford college revealed in bits and pieces throughout the book, as well as the details of bookmaking. The mystery was done well enough until the end, where it fell rather flat in the wrap-up of details. Still, I liked the teaser about the reluctant novice, whose story is obviously going to be told in book 2, The Novice's Tale.

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