The second of Laurie R. King’s Kate Martinelli books, To Play the Fool, is a tightly written, thoughtful work, and was a nice re-introduction for me to the series. I’d previously read the third and then the first ones; going back to read the second filled in the blanks nicely on things that I’d missed. It’d been long enough since I’d read the previous books though that I’d forgotten much of the nuances of the series, but I recalled enough to find this perhaps the most enjoyable of the ones I’d read so far.
Much of the pleasure of this book lies with the individual Kate must investigate: a homeless wanderer known only as Brother Erasmus, a charismatic preacher revered by the street people of San Francisco and who is the primary suspect in her current murder case. She quickly learns that the man communicates only in literary quotations and by presenting himself as a Fool, which makes questioning him frustratingly difficult. Yet as she investigates him further, she finds that he has a tragic and moving past, which all comes together to make the man a vivid figure indeed.
Against this, Kate’s domestic situation is a wistful counterpoint. Her partner Lee is recovering from traumatic injuries suffered in the first novel, and she and Kate’s home life has undergone major upheavals as a result. Kate’s efforts to find ways to help Lee regain her confidence while dealing with her disability are quietly touching.
Overall, this was quite an enjoyable read. Four stars.