The Nun’s Tale

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE NUN’S TALE is a delightful way to pick up a bit of medieval history, and the reader will find it does not hurt a bit. Robb introduces readers to simple folk, working people, royalty and the religious echelons of York, Leeds, Scarborough, and the English countryside. A nun mysteriously dies and has been quickly buried. Evidently, she had been keeping company on unclear terms with a man whose reputation would make most people blush. Before long, Owen Archer and his competent wife are on the scene; throughout the medieval mire of murder, they nearly singlehandedly untangle the dreadful intertwinings the nun Joanna has witnessed. Joanna’s experiences, real and imagined, create poignant emotions. Unfortunately there are some dreadful deaths strewn about the path, and the reading is filled with nonstop excitement.

Owen Archer, who is a master archer and the Archbishop of York’s somewhat unwilling aid, is an expert at resolving problems and finding the right people for the job. He is also good at not spending too much time by his wife’s side, although she will soon have a baby. Lucie Walton is an master apothecary, the only person who is able to have a relatively sane conversation with Joanna. Robb has skillfully put these two characters to work, one on finding people, graves, motives, the other in delving into Joanna’s psyche. Together, Owen and Lucie resolve an incredible tale and offer the reader a nice piece of historic fiction. Robb takes her work seriously and includes a short glossary which is helpful but not crucial to following the story, and there is an interesting note at the end where Robb talks about her sources for the book.