The Widow of Jerusalem
The jester Theophilos, aka Feste the Fool, is back in full form in this sequel to A Death in the Venetian Quarter. In 1204, Theo and wife Claudia are fleeing Constantinople with their baby daughter on the heels of the Fourth Crusade, for the Vatican has turned against the Fools’ Guild. Along the way, Theo relates the story of Scarlet the Dwarf, his superior in the Guild, and their joint adventures in Tyre during the Third Crusade in 1191. As he tells it, Theo once again gets caught up in high-level political intrigue on the Guild’s behalf, this time befriending the lonely Queen Isabelle of Jerusalem, married off to the burly Conrad of Montferrat — who may or may not have her best interests at heart. For the most part, the novel’s a fast-paced adventure, though the murder of a young woman well past halfway through gives it some mystery flavor. Her death is tied in to the fight for supremacy over the Holy Land, something that should come as no surprise. Gordon manages the transitions between the present and the past quite well, and his likable characters and original setting make this novel another winner. Be warned, however, that the jacket blurb essentially gives away the ending.