Margaret Frazer, A Play of Lords

Posted January 10, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

A Play of Lords (Joliffe, #4)A Play of Lords by Margaret Frazer
Series: Joliffe, 4
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

Fourth in the Joliffe medieval mystery series revolving around a small troupe of players.

My Take

Oh, this was too fascinating! Not so much a mystery this time as a political assessment of the broken alliance with Burgundy and how all the maneuverings are an attempt to drive down the price of English wool. That’s the gist of it.

In the meantime, we get to enjoy the grand success Lord Lovell’s Players are experiencing leaving us wondering how they will make out once they are on the road again.

I suspect that the previous three stories were setting the scene for A Play of Lords, building Joliffe’s reputation for figuring things out, leading to the bishop’s proposition.

Frazer is just amazing in how well her words convey us back in time from the manners to the clothing and, most especially, the dialog. When she includes the wit, you can’t help but fall in love. This series is a buy for me.

The Story

Lord Lovell and his household have gone to London for the opening of Parliament and he wants his Players there as well. The performance Basset and company put on that first night inspires the Bishop of Beaufort to request Joliffe write a play that makes the Duke of Burgundy look an idiot and make the Dauphin a villain to defuse tension against Burgundy in London.

Joliffe has three days. A most successful play as it causes the Lord Lovell Players to be in demand at some high and mighty households including the Duke of Gloucester’s. The king’s heir, no less. Being so successful does have its negatives as they discover when they’re attacked on the street. Combined with the intel that Joliffe assembles from wandering the streets…well, it’s not always safe to come to the attention of those who rule over you.

The Characters

Joliffe Southwell is the writer for Master Basset‘s troupe as well as an actor. He has been gaining quite a reputation for mystery solving which is how he came to the bishop’s attention. Basset’s daughter Rose sews and repairs the wardrobe as well as maintaining the props. Her son Piers does well in imp and feminine roles while young Gil is doing quite well as the newcomer. Ellis is also a good actor and loves the reluctant Rose.

Lord and Lady Lovell are wealthy, not Duke of York wealthy, but well enough that they can afford their own troupe of players. John Hyche is the gatekeeper for their London home. Mak is one of the London servants and has been assigned to ease the Players’ stay in London although it turns out that Mak has more than one master.

Bishop of Beaufort is also a cardinal of England and the bishop of Winchester; he’s also one of the very young king’s guardians and a relative—one of John o’Gaunt’s bastards. I can’t figure out if Master Fowler is the bishop’s door warden or spy secretary.

James “Jem” Smithcot is a constable of Farrington Ward and come to investigate the attack on the Players.

The Cover

The cover feels quite medieval in how the people are portrayed let alone it’s a busy city street with people coming and going, banners flying from house fronts, and St. Paul’s Cathedral towering over all.

The title says it all on several levels including the to-and-fro that Joliffe observes is indeed A Play of Lords as the lords, dukes, merchants, and bishops maneuver for the best advantage.

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