Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Play of Dux Moraud AND A Play of Knaves

These are two books, part of a series by Margaret Frazer about the player Joliffe and the acting troupe to which he belongs, and how they go about solving murders in medieval England. (This troupe of players is introduced in Frazer's other series, the Dame Frevisse books) Dux Moraud is the second in the series, and Knaves the third, and I read them back-to-back. I quite liked the first book in the series, A Play of Isaac, so I was ready for more. And I like the series, on the whole, but with some few reservations.

Good things: the characterizations are good to a point, the milieu convincing, the stories interesting. Each story is based on a play performed by the troop, which seems to have some historical justification.

Not-as-good things: Dux Moraud turns out to have a lot of incestuous overtones, which I don't much care for. Sir Edmund and his family don't work for me. After laboriously pointing out that Sir Edmund's character will be reflected in the attitudes of his household and community, we find a normal community and household presided over by a cold man and his cold wife, a child that could be psychopathic and a child who is normal. Normal child seems to fit in with the gang, but Dad, Mom and Other Child definitely inhabit their own weird world. And Knaves has its own set of crazy people. How is it that all these mentally ill people are in positions of authority, meaning they're not outcasts or homeless or even unsuccessful?

Having said all this, I will probably read the next Joliffe book, which came out this week, entitled A Play of Lords. But if you're interested in medieval mysteries, I would recommend the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters.


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