A Play of Heresy

Written by Margaret Frazer
Review by Ann Chamberlin

During the reign of Henry VI, Joliffe the Player returns to his travelling troupe as they prepare to assist the citizens of Coventry to stage their annual mystery plays. Within common memory, Coventry had been rocked by Lollard heresy, and the disappearance of a merchant between Coventry and Bristol might be linked. Joliffe investigates while he tries to whip the least inspiring of the plays into shape.

In wonderful, detailed author’s note, Frazer describes the opportunity she had to attend a recreation of the Coventry guild plays at the University of Toronto. How I wish I’d been there! This novel, so much more than a historical mystery, may be as close as I’ll ever get. The detail and recreation of the players’ craft are brilliant. She has clearly acted, but readers are so lucky she didn’t decide to restrict her skills to that calling. Every detail, physical and emotional, is spot on. And where other later installments in other mystery series can leave the novice reader floundering, I know these characters from the beginning pages.