Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Play of Treachery

When Joliffe the player agreed to serve the Bishop of Winchester in a confidential capacity, he didn't expect to be sent to France; but there he finds himself, beginning his official training in spycraft in the household of the very young widow of the Duke of Bedford.  While he practices with weapons, ciphers, and maps, he also comes to perceive undercurrents in the household, and when the hints of secrets lead to the murder of one of the young Duchess's ladies, his studies suddenly have a practical application.

Joliffe is changing, and he's not sure it's for the better.  His last guest spot in one of Margaret Frazer's "Dame Frevisse" series of medieval murder mysteries was set many years later than his previous appearances in her series or his own, and it was kind of a shock to see where the author thinks he'll end up when the intermediate steps of how he gets to that point haven't been written yet.  He's been an unofficial or semi-official investigator in previous books, but this novel starts the process of turning him into a pro, taking him from the sharply observant actor he's always been from his first appearance in The Servant's Tale to the solitary expert spy of The Traitor's Tale.  It may not be a comfortable journey for him, but for the reader it looks like it's going to be well worth making.

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