Jack, Knave and Fool

Bruce Alexander, Author Putnam Publishing Group $22.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-14419-6
Sir John Fielding returns in Alexander's entertaining fifth fictionalized case (after Person or Persons Unknown, 1997) for the real-life 18th-century English magistrate known as ""Blind Beak."" A master of character and plot, Alexander also captures the sounds, smells and social undercurrents of 1770s London. While attending an evening's entertainment, the blind Sir John, his wife, Katherine, his young ""amanuensis,"" Jeremy Proctor (who narrates this series), and Annie, the family's 16-year-old cook, witness the death of elderly Lord Laningham. Although the death is ascribed to natural causes, Sir John suspects poison. Lady Laningham, who delays heeding his call for an autopsy, is herself soon poisoned, casting suspicion on the Laningham heir, Arthur Paltrow. The discovery of a severed head in the Thames engages Jeremy and his friend Jimmie Bunkins in a case involving a ne'er-do-well carpenter, who had come up before Fielding on a charge of public drunkenness, and the missing owner of a pawn shop. For Jeremy, the headstrong daughter of the carpenter provides added aggravation when, suffering from pneumonia, she appropriates his bedroom. Alexander increases Jeremy's role while somewhat reducing Sir John's in this tale, at the conclusion of which the two plot lines convincingly mesh. BOMC alternate; audio rights to Books on Tape. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 629 pages - 978-0-7862-1798-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 405 pages - 978-0-425-17120-2
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