A Play of Dux Moraud

A Play of Dux Moraud by Margaret Frazer.  Frazer is a veteran medieval writer who is expanding beyond her popular series featuring Dame Frevisse to a new series focusing on a struggling band of actors as they travel about the English countryside in the 1430s.  In this story, the second of the series, the troupe accepts an assignment from their patron, Lord Lovell, to investigate the activities taking place at the manor of Sir Edmund, one of Lord Lovell’s knights.  Sir Edmund’s daughter is about to be married, but an earlier fiancé died suddenly and the lord wants to be sure no foul play was involved and that none will happen now.  Upon arrival at the manor the troupe, consisting of its aging leader, Basset, his daughter, Rose, grandson, Piers, and players Ellis and Joliffe, plus newly acquired apprentice, Gil, discover a nest of lust, revenge and fear where both hosts and guests are suspects.  Only after a lot of hard work, some careful thinking and a considerable amount of luck, does Joliffe, as principal investigator, come up with the solution to present to his lord. 

Frazer’s inside look at the pleasures and tribulations of a small acting company is quite interesting and both her descriptive prose and dialogue convey the time period well.  The story does slow down when we are privy to a bit too much of Joliffe’s mental gymnastics as the clues are gathered and questions and possibilities are considered.  The addition of apprentice Gil is a welcome one as it allows us to see how new actors are trained and introduced to the group.

For readers interested in a different look at mysteries set in an English theater company, I would recommend Edward Marston’s series with Nicholas Bracewell and Westfield’s Men in Elizabethan times.  For those who prefer opera as a setting, then Beverle Graves Myers’ series set in 1730s Venice might be for you.

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