A Play of Knaves

[openbook booknumber=”0425211118″][rating:3/5]

In the pages of Margaret Frazer’s national bestselling Dame Frevisse series, the player Joliffe has assumed many roles on stage, to the delight of those he entertains. Now, in the company of a troupe of traveling performers, he finds himself cast in the role of sleuth…

In the spring of 1435, Joliffe and his fellow players are sent to the village of Ashewell not only to stage plays, but to uncover some dark secrets about the town’s three wealthy families: the Ashewells, the Medcotes, and the Gosyns. A rivalry has been brewing among the families, entangling the entire town in a web of seduction, deception, and blackmail.

Matters go beyond the breaking point when someone turns to murder to settle their grievances. And if one murder is good, why not another? If all the world is a stage, then it’s up to Joliffe to bring the curtain down on this tragedy – before another man takes his final curtain call…

The book A Play of Knaves is one of a series of historical mysteries that follow the player Joliffe as he ends up in a variety of situations that require some serious sleuthing to stay out of trouble.


Joliffe knew their audience was with them when Christ declared at the money-changers, “You knaves! You thieves and rascals! Defaming the Lord God’s honor as you do! Making his house into a den of thieves and taking what is not yours to take, like shepherds never shearing but butchering every sheep!” and among the lookers-on heads turned and some people pointed at Father Hewgo standing at his church door, glaring, his arms tightly folded aross his chest, well apart from it all but making sure his disapproval lowered over everything. Joliffe had not written the lines at him but might as well have because his parishioners surely saw a match; there was even scattered laughter that would do nothing to soften him toward the players.

While it is not difficult to follow and enjoy the mystery of A Play of Knaves without having read the rest of the series, some of the introspection of the main character seemed misplaced because I had not read earlier works and had not yet formed a connection of any sort with Joliffe. I still felt like I hadn’t by the end of the book either. It is very apparent that there is an arc through the series following Joliffe and this was just one small part of it, but since I was reading a book somewhere in the middle it ended up being just confusing to have those themes thrown in.

The historical mystery on its own was a fun read. I don’t know much about the period so I’m not sure what of it is accurate and what not, but the characters were lively and fun and the mystery was definitely interesting, though I wouldn’t call it gripping by any means. The dialogue was definitely not accurate for the times, but that was probably a blessing considering the year. A lot of the circumstance and background for a band of traveling players in the 1400’s ended up being pretty interesting. And, the humor of the book was at times laugh out loud funny as their performances were described, plus they often had license to poke fun at figures in society that the average person could not.

A Play of Knaves was a light and fun read but might I suggest starting with A Play of Issac? That might make things make a lot more sense and you can follow Joliffe the player from the very beginning.

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