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Thirteenth Night: A Medieval Mystery [Hardcover]

Alan Gordon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 28 1998
In late December 1200 A.D. a merchant arrives at the tavern near the Guildhall of the Fools' Guild with a message for one of the jesters. The message is brief: "Orsino is dead."

Fifteen years before, the jester, using the name of Feste, secretly interceded on the Guild's behalf in a dynastic crisis in the Duchy of Orsino, thus spoiling the plans of Saladin's agent, Malvolio. These events, recorded centuries later somewhat differently in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, led to Malovino's humiliation and his oath of revenge. Now, with the unexpected death of the Duke of Orsino, Feste suspects murder and sees the hand of Malvolio behind it.

With the backing of the Guild, Feste secretly returns to Orsino disguised as a merchant, to find out what really happened to the Duke and to ferret out Malvolio. But fifteen years is a long time and Malvolio could be disguised as anyone. Only one thing is certain: Feste must uncover and foil the plot before he is found out by Malvolio, who has been planning his revenge on Feste for a very long time.



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From Publishers Weekly

"I prefer to leap to conclusions without evidence. It saves time," says Feste, a professional fool. Around this note of obfuscation, Gordon's first novel weaves an amusing sequel to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night that, through clever misdirection and deceit, keeps readers guessing. In the first year of the 13th century, the Fool's Guild?a training center and headquarters for jesters and clowns who secretly influence the direction of political events?receives word of the death of Duke Orsino of Illyria. Feste, who nurtured Orsino's affections for Viola years before, suspects foul play, so he goes to investigate, disguised as a merchant. The guild also sends along Bobo, in fool's garb, to act as a decoy. Feste fears that Malvolio, former steward to a wealthy family who became the butt of his songs and pranks, may have murdered the duke in the first step of a long-promised revenge. But after 14 years' absence, Feste is no longer certain of Malvolio's appearance, and every man in town becomes a suspect. The plot becomes further entangled with the murder of Fabian, the new steward to the family that Malvolio once served. Gordon's invention of the guild's code and its many tricks is delightful; his dialogue is pitch perfect. What the first half of the narrative lacks in excitement, the second provides in abundance, as political intrigues?and the characters involved in them?sparkle, delighting readers all the way to the conclusion.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

If Gordon's title expands on Shakespeare's play, so does his plot. Narrator Feste, a 13th-century member of the Fool's Guild (jugglers, jesters, and secret agents), owns up to contriving the main events concerning the Duke of Orsino as subsequently recounted in Twelfth Night. Now, years later, the duke has been murdered, and Feste, traveling incognito as a German tradesman, braves an ocean voyage to investigate his death and perhaps stymie a vengeful Malvolio. Witty wordplay, comical characters, and exaggerated circumstances mark this fanciful and entertaining historical by a lawyer who has previously published nine mystery stories.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read for any historical mystery buff. Dec 4 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
_Thirteenth Night_ was a great, fun mystery read and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's not a detective mystery in the purest sense, since the emphasis is not on clues and investigations but on character. In fact, the book's strongest point is its development of the sometimes one-dimensional characters of _Twelfth Night_ into believeable people. I did not always agree with Gordon's view of the characters; still, I enjoyed what he did with them.
The narrator Theophilus does not let us in on all his reasoning, and knowledge until the very end, when he lets the characters in on it as well. Without this knowledge, no reader could solve the mystery before Theophilus does. I find the withholding of information annoying, but it is a typical and traditional technique of the mystery genre (Conan Doyle does it). Still, this is not the book for readers who like to match their wits against those of fictional detectives.
I still recommend the book for an interesting and entertaining read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The jester as detective Aug. 1 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I always wondered what the jester's real game was... Shakespeare's various jesters (Feste, Lear's fool etc.) were all the same man; a member of a secret guild whose purpose was to have a positive effect on the world at large. Starting with the message "Orsino is dead," Feste is called back to the land of "Twelfth Night" to solve the mystery around the death and the possible participation of Malvolio. Gordon remains focussed on the mystery, with a number of clever ruses thrown in to keep the reader guessing. Sticking to modern day speech patterns rather than pseudo-Shakespearean is a definite plus. While you don't get a true sense of period from this mystery, (Gordon works more on plot and characters than setting) Gordon deftly imagines what happened to Twelfth Night's various characters, some coming out much worse for wear. Also enjoyable was the author's treatment of the reader; he lets the story recap Twelfth Night's plot and the Jester's Guild function is intimated not explained in boring detail.A fine first novel in a series I hope is successful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Entertainment March 13 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of the most purely enjoyable mysteries I've read in ages. The plot is complex but not in a contrived way, the characters shine, and the writing is superb. Like Stephen Saylor, Gordon can write passages that demand to be reread for the sheer pleasure of it. The dialogue is pitch-perfect and wryly witty without slipping into the coyness that mars the work of other authors.
That would be pleasure enough, but the plot contrivance on which the book is based is truly brilliant. Gordon posits that the jesters in Shakespeare's plays are all the same person--who is not merely a jester but an agent working for a secret, international guild of fools whose purpose is to keep the barbarity of various rulers and armies to a minimum. The interweaving of the central mystery, plot strands from Shakespeare, and guild intrigue is irresistible. Note: The connection to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is presented so well that it won't interfere a jot if you haven't read or don't remember the play.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Mystery Oct. 30 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Thirteenth Night" truly is a five star book. Alan Gordon has done a splendid job of building a new story around the characters of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." He presents the reader with an exciting, witty and very well written mystery. I especially like his premise that medieval jesters and troubadours were much more than entertainers. And, mercifully, his characters speak in modern English, not the embarrassing pseudo-antique dialogue one sees in many novels set in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance.
"Thirteenth Night" and Alan Gordon deserve to be much better known.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Take-Off on Twelfth Night. Nov. 20 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Alan Gordon says that he got the idea for this book during a seminar on Shakespeare which took place for four-hour meetings once a week. After a while, he started thinking "what if every fool in Shakespeare's plays were the same man?" Years later, the idea was still in his head and he couldn't resist any longer. So he wrote this fascinating and convoluted tale of "Feste", who is summoned back to the Duchy of Illyria/Orsino (where the Shakespeare play "Twelfth Night" took place) by the message "Orsino is dead." Now that his work to foil a wicked plot by Saladin has been endangered, Feste returns to the scene and is beset by plots, counter-plots, and returning villains. The scene is set wonderfully, with details aplenty and a few cameos by historical figures which were quite fun in their own right. Feste's voice is wry and satirical, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series with glee.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Thirteenth Night May 8 2000
Format:Hardcover
I thought this book was OK. This is the author's first book, and that is the way it read. I think he did a good job on his first book but I am expecting better on his next.
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