The Parisian Prodigal
Alan Gordon sets the sixth of his Theophilus the Jester mysteries in the city of Toulouse, ruled by Count Raimon in the year 1205. Theophilus, his jester wife, Claudia, their child, Portia, and apprentice jester, Helga, are newly arrived in the city where Theophilus takes on the post of Head Jester.
To those familiar with the series, it will come as no surprise that the international Fools’ Guild, a clandestine peace-keeping network of spies and confidants, was instrumental in placing Count Raimon on the throne and maintains an interest in keeping him there. As local Head Jester, Theophilus has the Count’s ear and trust. Thus, when a certain Baudoin arrives from Paris claiming to be Count Raimon’s younger brother, Theophilus is placed at the center of the investigation to determine his legitimacy. The investigation grows more complex and urgent when Baudoin is arrested for killing the prostitute he was still in bed with!
True to the Theophilus tradition, the dialogue is pat, quick banter; the characters are a motley crew of jesters, soldiers, nobility, whores, lepers, and wily gambling sharks; and the historical detail is woven in seamlessly. The only detracting feature of the story is the author’s change of voice midway through the book – from Theophilus’ to Claudia’s – which is somewhat disorienting.
But this is a fun read. The conclusion is surprising and satisfying. There is also a sentimental side story involving the orphan apprentice, Helga, which I will not spoil. All told, it’s a fine book to curl up with on a winter weekend.