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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Thursday, July 08, 2004

To Play the Fool by Laurie R. King. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-312-11907-0

This is the second of the author's Kate Martinelli mysteries, the first of which I blogged about a month ago. And I have to confess that Ms. King continues to surprise me. This storyline revolves around the fascinating topic of the "holy fool." A homeless man, known as Brother Erasmus, who spends much of his time ministering to the other homeless folk in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, is the suspect.

Unfortunately for Kate and her partner Al, the good brother, who also doubles as a clown/magician street entertainer, speaks only in quotations, which he takes from the Bible and Shakespeare mostly, but he doesn't hesitate to dip into the early church fathers, or even as far afield as Lewis Carroll or even Gilbert & Sullivan, although perhaps it's only Kate, second-hand via her personal partner, Lee, who indulges in that source, I'm not sure.

At any rate, imagine a police interview in which the interviewee responds only in classical quotes! The quotes chosen by our fool DO have SOME relation to the questions, but the exact relationship is often difficult to interpret. And it turns out that there is a long tradition of holy fools, stretching back at least as far as St. Francis of Assisi.

One of the other surprising aspects to the Martinelli stories is that although Kate is involved with Lee in a long-term lesbian relationship, this has no more effect on the action or storylines than would any long-term heterosexual relationship between two individuals. It just happens to be the case but doesn't particularly affect let alone control the action.

I confess: I'm now a died-in-the-wool Laurie King fan, and am looking forward to devouring the rest of her books I haven't yet gotten to. Highly recommended.

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