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A Play of Knaves
Joliffe Mysteries, # 3

by Margaret Frazer

      Lord Lovellís Men are off on their travels in this third adventure, following on from the deservedly acclaimed A Play of Isaac and A Play of Dux Moraud (also reviewed on this site). To the onlooker they might look like any other band of strolling players, but they are on a mission from their lord to find out what is going on in the small town of Ashewell. The town has three warring and newly well-to-do families: the Ashewells, the Medcotes and the Gosyns. It is not long before somebody gets murdered, and Joliffe and his fellow players have to discover whodunit before the crowner points the finger at them.

As usual you can expect not only a good tale but also a high standard of research and plenty of fascinating detail about life in the early 15th century. While Frevisse has adventures in the world of high politics with more frequency, these books can show us a microcosm of that world, confined just in one place. It is not hard to guess the identity of the murderer, so the reader can settle down for possibly the most entertaining social history lesson imaginable. Here you can find out what life was like as the Middle Ages fade gradually into the world of the Renaissance, and villeins buy their freedom to become "middle class". There is also the intriguing world of the early theatre to enjoy, with plenty of detail about the type of plays performed and how they were staged. In amongst all this there are Joliffe and the players, of whom we are learning more and more in each book, and who have come into to a well-rounded life of their own. As with all this authorís work, highly recommended.

The Book

Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin Group)
August 1, 2006
Historical Mystery - 1435, Oxfordshire, UK
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006