Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Death in the Venetian Quarter

A Death in the Venetian Quarter: A Fools' Guild Mystery (Fools' Guild Mysteries)Death in the Venetian Quarter by Alan Gordon is the third book in the Fools Guild series starring Feste, the jester in the thirteenth century. Feste and his wife Viola, also known as Aglaia, his wife and also a jester, have been serving in Constantinople since the last book, Jester Leaps In. The city is about to be attacked by the Crusaders under direction of the Doge of Venice, and there is fear that the Venetian Quarter in the city will support the siege, attacking from the inside out. Feste is asked by Chief Treasurer, Philoxenites to determine who murdered his contact, Bastiari a silk merchant, in the Quarter to see if the murder is the beginning of a plot to bring about the fall of the city. Feste's investigation leads him to split up his team of fools, sending some to the Crusaders in hopes of negotiating a truce, while those who remain in the city work to find the murderer, as well as hopefully find a way to send the Crusaders on their merry way. Feste has added incentive to keep his home safe, as Aglaia has recently revealed that she is carrying their first child, a daughter she believes. Feste will have to be at his agile best, both physically and mentally, to keep his growing family safe while negotiating the politically charged atmosphere of a city under siege. Gordon's series about the Fools Guild presents a remarkably believable view of the past in which jesters were constantly moving to manipulate people politically to keep war at bay, making them often the prime movers and shakers in history. Feste is the rare delightful character who surpasses readers' expectations. He is rarely bested, always two steps ahead of his enemy, and able to create a plan to bloodlessly usurp a emperor and save a city destined to fall. Aglaia's narration on a few chapters adds a new element to the series, and readers will come to love this woman who is unafraid to raise a frying pan to her beloved husband when he takes unreasonable risks. Feste is beginning to mature as he has to juggle the needs of the guild with that of being a husband and soon-to-be father, and the series is gaining depth emotionally through his relationship with Aglaia. Long may the Fools Guild reign!