The Moneylender of Toulouse: A Fools' Guild Mystery
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
Reviewed by Tim Davis
lan Gordon's seventh
Fools' Guild Mystery
takes readers back to the year 1204 when Theophilos and his family (wife Claudia, infant daughter Portia, and apprentice Helga) have moved to tiny Saint Cyprian near the medieval urban center of Toulouse. Sent by Father Gerald to become the chief jester of Toulouse, Theophilos has also been dispatched by the priest on a secret mission: find a way to force the corrupt Bishop Raimon de Rabastens to resign so that Folquet of Marseille can replace him.
roblems have arisen between the Fools' Guild and the Roman Catholic church throughout Europe, and the bishop's removal promises to fit in nicely with the guild's strategy for gradually returning to a position of esteem within society; however, secular versus sectarian tensions are running high, and the cunning Bishop of Toulouse will turn out to be an obstinate and treacherous adversary.
heophilos, upon his arrival in the region, realizes that he must adjust his tactics when he learns about the murder of an apparent enemy of the bishop's - an unpopular and disreputable moneylender named Milon Borsella. Seizing upon what seems to be a golden tactical opportunity, Theophilos becomes an enterprising detective - as has happened, of course, frequently in prior Fools' Guild Mysteries. The innovative jester and amateur sleuth, however, will learn the truth of the commonly held local knowledge that Toulouse in the early 13th century could be '
a dangerous and evil place.
' Danger and death lurk everywhere as Theophilos - ably assisted by his wife and his apprentice - steadfastly pursues Borsella's killer and, in doing so, with the support of the local nobleman, makes certain that the problematic bishop will be forced to relinquish his unholy stranglehold on Toulouse.
he ultimate solution, though, will leave Theophilos wondering about the future for Toulouse (which, of course, for readers, strongly suggests the direction of what will happen next: Alan Gordon's eighth Fools' Guild Mystery).
s a fascinating mystery and a gorgeous depiction of life and society at the outset of the 13th century in Europe,
The Moneylender of Toulouse
is overflowing with intriguing historical details, interesting characters, provocative ironies, and fool's bounty of duplicities, disguises, red herrings, and entertaining surprises; moreover, the novel's impressive verisimilitude is reinforced by the author's historical notes that are appended to the narrative. Fans of medieval mysteries, well-crafted plots, and fine storytelling will not want to miss this one!
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