A Play Of Knaves

Written by Margaret Frazer
Review by Bethany Skaggs

A Play of Knaves, the third in the Joliffe Mysteries series (a spin-off of Frazer’s well-known Sister Frevisse mysteries) finds the intrepid troupe of 15th century players, including Joliffe, in better circumstances than before. They’ve finally found a lordly patron, which offers the only means of protection to players who, like gypsies, were often scapegoats whenever trouble began brewing. As a favor to their patron’s wife, the players agree to visit the village of Ashewell to perform, and to surreptitiously gather information about unrest involving the village’s three prominent families: the Ashewells, Gosyns, and Medcotes. Murder is soon committed, and Joliffe must uncover the guilty party before the village turns against the players, or more people are murdered.

This little mystery is an easy read, Joliffe is an engaging protagonist, and the players are an appealing group. The reader won’t find discovering the identity of the murderer to be too taxing of an exercise, but the seething undercurrents of the village’s secrets provide enough respectable suspects to forestall instant recognition. This installment also provides more insight into Joliffe’s character, exposing the secret regrets and desires under his mischievous, playful exterior. Overall, a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.