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Jack, Knave and Fool (Sir John Fielding Series #5)
     

Jack, Knave and Fool (Sir John Fielding Series #5)

4.3 3
by Bruce Alexander
 

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In this fifth Sir John Fielding mystery, the legendary eighteenth-century London judge takes on his most difficult case to date. John Fielding was famous not only as cofounder of London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners, but also as a magistrate of keen intellect, fairness and uncommon detective ability. What made this all the more remarkable was that he

Overview

In this fifth Sir John Fielding mystery, the legendary eighteenth-century London judge takes on his most difficult case to date. John Fielding was famous not only as cofounder of London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners, but also as a magistrate of keen intellect, fairness and uncommon detective ability. What made this all the more remarkable was that he was blind. Now the blind magistrate and his young assistant and ward, Jeremy Proctor, face a baffling pair of deaths. A lord dies suddenly while attending a concert. A disembodied head washes up on the banks of the Thames. While investigating both, Sir John and Jeremy learn more than they ever cared to about family, greed, deception, and the peculiar nature of homicide, high and low.

"This is a wonderful series . . . In addition to giving us a marvelous parade of Georgian-era high and low characters in the London of Johnson and Boswell, it is packed with history and lore, and it's altogether much fun."—Washington Post Book World

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
. . .[W]hen all the miscreants have been rounded up, we can only marvel at Sir John's wise methods of dispensing justice in such an unruly society. —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sir John Fielding returns in Alexander's entertaining fifth fictionalized case 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.
Library Journal
The latest addition to a colorful and rambunctious series (e.g., Person or Persons Unknown, LJ 8/97) follows blind Bow Street magistrate Sir John Fielding and his teenaged assistant/prot g Jeremy Proctor as they pursue several cases. The first concerns possible murder: the elderly Lord Laningham falls dead after drinking certain spirits, as does his wife a week later. Other cases include a wily escapee with a saucy daughter and an attempt to determine the identity of a decapitated head. This detailed, lively, and realistic re-creation of 18th-century London, crowded with fully fleshed characters, belongs in every mystery collection.
Marilyn Stasio
. . .[W]hen all the miscreants have been rounded up, we can only marvel at Sir John's wise methods of dispensing justice in such an unruly society. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
There's no escaping sudden death no matter which end of the social spectrum you occupy in 1771 London. On their second (!) visit to a decapitated head found floating in the Thames, Jeremy Proctor's friend Jimmie Bunkins thinks he recognizes it as that of George Bradbury, a receiver of stolen goods with ties to the lowest lowlifes London can offer. By this time, Jeremy, together with his master, blind Bow Street magistrate Sir John Fielding, has already been present for an even more unnerving spectacle when the foolish old Earl of Laningham, patron of the Academy of Ancient Music, interrupts a Handel concert first by waving his arms and beating time to the music, then by falling down dead. Poison, suspects sharp-eared Sir John (Person or Persons Unknown). But when he voices his suspicions to Lady Laningham, she delays acting until she's dead too, and even then, an incompetent new coroner refuses to disturb the internal organs of a couple so noble for an unseemly autopsy. Are the two cases connected? They are not; but as separate courses, alternately sampled, they still provide plenty of excitement for young Jeremy—who'll spend much of his time quarreling with a girl who insists against all the evidence that her father couldn't have been mixed up in the beheading—and plenty of sidelights, both earthy and urbane, on the 18th-century milieu. As for the two mysteries—one rather unoriginal, the other left hanging in a surprisingly anticlimactic way—they're no more than the key to Alexander's magical world.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425171202
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1999
Series:
Sir John Fielding Series , #5
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
468,577
Product dimensions:
4.21(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.06(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Jack, Knave and Fool (Sir John Fielding Series #5) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
The_Iceman More than 1 year ago
¿Jack, Knave and Fool¿, Bruce Alexander¿s fifth novel in the highly acclaimed Sir John Fielding series, is neither the cozy, lightweight mystery (à la Agatha Christie or Susan Wittig-Albert) nor the historical thriller that many readers might expect. It might more accurately be categorized as an atmospheric and compelling police procedural set within a graphic description of 18th century Georgian England.

"Jack, Knave and Fool" will treat its readers to extraordinary characterization and atmospheric embellishment that brings people, time and place to life with a sparkling vitality and a sense of realism that can hardly be rivaled - the sights, the smells, the sounds, the slums, the prisons, the docks, pubs, outdoor markets, dark alleys, upstairs, downstairs, courts, gaming houses, bordellos, street walkers, poor houses, pickpockets, scamps, cut purses, thieves, murderers and even a police sting operation designed to snag the fencing operations of a less than scrupulously honest pawn shop. In short, Bruce Alexander brings a very nervous gaslit Georgian London to life with an unrivalled clarity.

It¿s also quite exciting to witness the early growth of modern jurisprudence and police work through the fictionalized account of Sir John Fielding¿s experiences as the magistrate of Bow Street Court; the experiences of England¿s first police force, the ¿Bow Street Runners¿; and the early political realities faced by a coroner as opposed to the forensic realities and limitations of 18th century medicine.

Two mysteries, both workmanlike and well-constructed, run side by side. The first arises when Lord Laningham dies in a very public and rather obnoxious manner at a concert. Although an inquest rules that his death is due to natural causes, Sir John Fielding persists in believing the death to be a murder by poison. When Lord Laningham¿s wife dies in a similar manner, Sir John directs his sights and suspicion to the heir to the Laningham seat in the House of Lords, Arthur Paltrow.

The second mystery (and, for my money, the more interesting of the two) revolves around the escape of a Bow Street court prisoner. Thomas Rowntree, temporarily in the custody of a rapidly maturing Jeremy Proctor (who with each book has been given more air time, more responsibility and more respect), effectively plays the harmless, friendly fool and slips out of Proctor¿s clutches. Tracking him down leads Sir John and Jeremy through murder, a major fencing operation and a police sting. Thomas Rowntree¿s daughter, Clarissa, a feisty and positively enchanting character, is set up for what will almost certainly be return appearances in future novels.

"Jack, Knave and Fool", preceded by ¿Person or Persons Unknown¿, "Watery Grave", "Blind Justice" and "Murder in Grub Street" is the fifth entry in Alexander's highly successful Sir John Fielding series. While it does stand alone as a satisfactory mystery, readers will derive the most enjoyment if they dig into the series from the start so they can revel in Alexander's wonderful multi-story character development as well as the mystery.

Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author does an excellent job of carrying over and continuing the lives of each person in the series. Great story ideas also. I wish for more!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My second book about Sir John Fielding and his Bow Street court. It is a very entertaining read, part mystery, part suspense. As is said about movies, it can be said about this book: they don't make 'em like this anymore. A solid and suspenseful and entertaining mystery that takes place in 1800s London, without the degrading language that is so much a part of today's popular fiction. Highly recommended for a mystery lover who also likes to step back into time.