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Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Play of Piety by Margaret Frazer

Genre: Historical Mystery

Margaret Frazer is one of my favorite authors.  She is currently writing two historical mystery series. Each of her mystery series take place in rural England in the middle of the fifteenth century.  The settings for the novels are far away from the squalor of the cities.  In Frazer's England, life is well ordered.  Her characters range from servants to lords and ladies.  Frazer's writings style is easy to read.  I find that I fly through the pages and get to the end too soon.  Fraser's novels read as great historical fiction.  Often the untimely death occurs in the last half of the book.  This give us a chance to learn about the character and their lives.

Frazer's original series is the Dame Frevisse Medieval Mysteries.  The main character is a nun at a small convent in rural England.  Dame Frevisse is a distant relative of Geoffry Chaucer.  She is inquisitive has a knack at unraveling untimely deaths.

Her second series is Joliffe the Player Mysteries.  These stories take place in the same time period as the Dame Frevisse stories.  Joliffe originally appeared as a character in one of the Dame Frevisse novels.  In these stories , Joliffe is a player in a traveling troupe of actors.  The troupe has recently become Lord Lovell's players.  This gives the troupe more social status, but means that they must obey their lord's wishes.

In A Play of Piety, Joliffe has returned to England from France.  He has been performing a secret service for Lord Lovell and the Bishop.  Upon his return, he finds the troupe spending the harvest time in a small village.  The leader of the troupe in in a hospital recovering from a severe case of arthritis.  Joliffe is employed as a servant and helper in the hospital.  The hospital has the misfortune of having an overbearing and demanding guest. When several people appear to have been poisoned, Joliffe begins to question who is trying to kill who, and why.

I can think of no better way to spend a quiet hour, than reading about Margaret Frazer's medieval England, Joliffe, and Dame Frevisse.

The first book of the Dame Frevisse Series is The Novice's Tale:

The first book of the Joliffe the Player Series is A Play for Isaac:

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