In their eighth adventure (The Moneylender of Toulouse, 2008, etc.) jesters Theo and Claudia investigate a courtly pretender and a whore’s murder in 13th-century France.
Theophilos, the Chief Fool of Toulouse, earns his bread by telling Count Raimon the truth while drinking as much of his wine as possible. When Baudoin, a courtier from Paris, arrives claiming to be the count’s long-lost brother, Raimon moves to throw him in the dungeon, but Theo counsels caution. As a lesson to them both, The Count appoints Theo as Baudoin’s unofficial tutor in the local langue d’oïl and sets his implacable man-at-arms Sancho to guard them while inquiries about Baudoin are made in Paris. Sancho offers a break from their studies at a brothel, where Baudoin takes up with the beautiful scarlet woman La Rossa. Next morning, La Rossa is dead, stabbed with Baudoin’s dagger. Out of sheer contrariness, Theo decides that Baudoin is innocent. With the aide of the mime Perladit and their fierce 12-year-old apprentice Helga, he and Claudia (his wife as well as his partner in bawdy performances) set out to solve the crime. Theo heads to the counts and the gamblers, Claudia to the countesses and courtesans, both of them using the tools of the Fools’ Guild—evasion, brawling and charm.
Likable, uproariously funny investigators solve a clever, quick-paced mystery in an accessible, authentic medieval world. A gem.