A Play of Piety (A Joliffe Mystery)
by Margaret Frazer
Cover Artist: Brigid Collins
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425237090
Date: 07 December 2010 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Margaret Fraser takes the reader to a medieval hospital in A Play of Piety, her sixth Joliffe the Player mystery. The hospital sisters (not nuns), cares for the dying, but also treat other aliments such as broken bones. Mistress Cisily Thorncoffyn, the daughter of the wealthy founder of the hospital, and Death are regular visitors. All prefer Death over the spoiled heiress.
Willful and obese, Mistress Thorncoffyn makes life miserable for all around her with the exception of her dogs. All must accede to her imperious demands and wishes. She treats all others poorly including the nursing sisters. One is her daughter-in-law she cheated of her dower rights and another loses her dowry when her priest brother begs her to fund masses for their deceased parents who died without confession because of Mistress Thorncoffyn. Joliffe marvels that none have encouraged her to her reward in heaven.
When two of her vassals accuse her trusted steward of cheating her, she beats the man senseless. He survives, but badly bruised and barely alive. However, the next morning a sister finds him dead in a small stream. The hospital staff wonders if the officials will charge Mistress Thorncoffyn with manslaughter.
Fraser shows the medieval world as less primitive than many readers believe. She also provides information and references in an Author's Note. Readers will find it easy to like her characters, especially Joliffe and the sisters. She has two medieval series, Dame Frevisse (17 titles) and Joliffe the Player (6 titles).