A Play of Piety

Written by Margaret Frazer
Review by Phyllis T. Smith

I have been a fan of Margaret Frazer’s medieval mysteries about Dame Frevisse. This novel is the sixth of another series she has authored, a spin off of the earlier one, and it entranced me just as her books about Dame Frevisse did. The story here takes place in 15th-century England. The central character, Joliffe, is a member of a troupe of players, that is, traveling actors. The leader of the troupe falls ill and the players must work in a charity hospital to earn their keep. Ensconced in the hospital, to no one’s delight, is a widow whose family’s financial patronage has kept the hospital going. Her unpleasant personality and demands do not endear her to anyone at the hospital, but does someone hate her enough to want to kill her? When other residents are poisoned, she is convinced she is the intended victim. Joliffe takes on the task of finding out who the murderer is.

This book abounds in authentic detail and intriguing, vividly fleshed-out characters. It gave me a sense of being carried back to medieval times. The precarious existence of traveling performers is realistically portrayed, and Joliffe is an engaging and resourceful protagonist. Without being archaic, the dialogue somehow rings true. The plot builds to a satisfying ending. All in all, this is a superb historical mystery.