Margaret Frazer, 1946-2013

Last Monday night, the world lost one of the bravest women I’ve ever been privileged to know.

Margaret Frazer’s double-Edgar-nominated Sister (later Dame) Frevisse books were my introduction to historical mysteries. Margaret, whose real name was Gail, was prolific, funny, strong, generous, and heartstoppingly gallant—she fought her great enemy cancer for twenty years and wrote twenty-five novels and a baker’s dozen of short stories while she was doing it. With one hand tied behind her back. (Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)

I remember a long thread on the Crime Thru Time email group when Gail was trying to figure out the title for her book The Sempster’s Tale. It was the world of the historical fiction writer in microcosm—“sempster” was the word that would have been used at the time of the story, but would readers understand? Should she change it to “sempstress”? “Seamstress”? In the end she stuck with “sempster,” because she was fiercely dedicated to historical accuracy. And you know, that one word, I think, set the tone for the book and the story.

Vale, Gail. May they have an endless, endless library on the far side of the universe.

Margaret Frazer’s website, with a complete list of her wonderful books and short stories, is at

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