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To Play the Fool (Kate Martinelli, #2)
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To Play the Fool (Kate Martinelli #2)

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  3,115 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
Celebrated author Laurie R. King dazzles mystery lovers once again in this, her second Kate Martinelli mystery. The story unfolds as a band of homeless people cremate a beloved dog in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. When it comes to incidents like this, the authorities are willing to overlook a few broken regulations. But three weeks later, after the dog's owner gets the ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 286 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by Crimeline (first published February 1st 1995)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 08, 2012 Carl rated it really liked it
"What we have here is a failure to communicate;" especially when one character is "To Play the Fool." Laurie King won the Edgar Award for best first novel, "A Grave Talent," over 20 years ago; I came to it late (and King), as I did with her Mary Russell series. After falling in love with several of King's Mary Russell series, I read "A Grave Talent," and I was not disappointed. I enjoyed it so much that I grabbed "To play a Fool," read it in two days, and am simply delighted with the book and ...more
Dec 22, 2008 fleegan rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
In this one, book two, detective inspector Martinelli and her partner Hawkins (San Francisco PD) are to solve a mystery about the death of a homeless man. Their main suspect happens to be a much beloved, and learned, other homeless man who happens to be a Fool. And who also happens to only speak in quotations (from the Bible and Shakespeare).

I thought it was interesting because

1. The book made you think along with the detective. Especially the quotations. What is he quoting? What is he trying to
Mar 15, 2010 Angela rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
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 r ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Orion rated it it was amazing
To Play the Fool is the second of a series of mystery novels by Laurie King that feature the San Francisco homicide detective Kate Martinelli. The first book, A Grave Talent, was an Edgar Award winner.

This book picks up about a year after the first, and finds Martinelli and her partner Al Hawken investigating the death of a homeless man in Golden Gate Park. There are no witnesses or evidence, but an enigmatic old man called Brother Erasmus who speaks only in quotations becomes a prime suspect. Q
Apr 05, 2009 Jay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: San Franciscans, homeless people, theologians, classicists
I usually avoid fiction and particularly mysteries, but my dad enthusiastically suggested I read this as it combined my passions for theology, social justice, poverty/homelessness, disabled communities, and queer communities. That said, my review has little to say about the mystery itself.

I enjoyed this book, painfully at times, but appreciate the ways in which theology and feminism are woven into a complex and compelling story. As a person working in homeless communities in San Francisco, the a
Feb 13, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
I liked this better at the end than while reading it. I don't know, Kate Martinelli's personality somehow doesn't catch my interest...I have read others in the series and can't remember them at all.

However, Brother Erasmus was an interesting character and his back story certainly made his choice to be "foolish" comprehensible - he was a moving character in many ways, and the use of quotations from St. Francis of Assisi at the beginning of each chapter set up a parallelism. I had mixed feelings a
Dec 19, 2007 Samantha rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I was looking for another mystery from Ms. King after reading A Grave Talent and this one kinda was but not really. You don't really know who the killer is until the end but this book is more about the process of a tragic human being. But I was fascinated with the characters. Ms. King writes such rich, complex characters. Throughout this series she has been letting you see more and more into the characters. I agree with others that I had hoped that Al was in this book ...more
Kate Martinelli is back at work despite the reservations of her lover. She and Al Hawkin catch a case that began with the cremation of a beloved dog by the homeless community. Three weeks later the pair are investigating the murder of a homeless man.

Erasmus, a respected monk in the homeless community, is sought as a witness. Even when they find him, interviewing him becomes almost impossible because he speaks only in quotes. Most often the quotes are from the bible or Shakespeare, but even when
Jul 08, 2016 Carra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, series
A clever, well written, more than "just" a mystery story. Brother Erasmus (view spoiler) is an intriguing, endearing character, and his story broke my heart. In a way, I would have wanted the murder mystery to be left out, and the story of Brother Erasmus to be the main focus of the book. Very rarely we get to read about homeless people, and when we do, they are usually there to serve as freakish details and/or as victims. Thankf ...more
Mar 03, 2012 Rosemarie rated it really liked it
I recently discovered Kate Martinelli in A GRAVE TALENT and continued reading about her police work and her private life in TO PLAY THE FOOL. And I may add that I have read the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books. Capsule-sized assessment: I really enjoy King's work. She tells what is, for me, a full, well developed story, complete with the personal bits that give life to an interesting character, without undue or distracting side issues. She knows what makes "enough" and included just that. ...more
I did not enjoy this one as much as the first. It felt like King was trying too hard. The plot had too much woolgathering about the whys and wherefores of the suspect and too much extraneous 'English trivia' for my taste. Also, the ending did not ring true and was too neat.

On the strength of the first one of the series, and the fact that this one was OK (not great but not terrible). I will give another of the series a try. But, if it is like this one rather than the first it is unlikely that I
Sep 02, 2010 Joan rated it really liked it
I continue to read Lauri's Kate Martinelli mysteries because I not only think she is an excellent writer who spins a gripping yarn, she takes me to a world I would never visit without her. Two beautiful, successful career women in a committed relationship. It is just that Kate is a cop and subject to violence. Her partner Lee was shot in anothr book and is on the mend. The relationship is lovely.

I also liked the part about Fools and the work of fools. I think that maybe what the world needs now
Neilie J
Sep 14, 2012 Neilie J rated it really liked it
Really good. What I like most about the Kate Martinelli stories is how matter-of-fact they are about the protagonist being a lesbian. It's not an "issue", it's just part of who she is. The way her relationship with her partner Lee is depicted is natural, often sweet and romantic - it feels truthful. Beyond that, the mystery here is interesting, particularly if you live in the Bay and know all the places mentioned in it. A book made of well-constructed, interesting storytelling.
Dec 02, 2011 NATUI rated it liked it
This one was kind of a disappointment for me. I loved the first one so much--this one was just a bit too convoluted for me to enjoy. I am both a history and literary buff; however, her use of quotes just did not gel for me the way her use of art did in the first novel. I am hoping her next installment will be more on par with her first book in this series.
Jan 04, 2011 Karen rated it liked it
I am giving this three stars only because it is billed as a mystery and that part of the plot is really secondary. But Brother Erasmus is a wonderful character as is the interesting details that lead him from who he was to who he is. It is also a striking commentary on homelessness and makes me think that I need to look a bit closer at the people around me and their realities.
Jul 29, 2011 Nancy added it
San Francisco detectives Martinelli and Hawkin are looking into a murder of a homeless man in Golden Gate park. The suspect is a man that speaks only in quotations. As Matinelli investigates and tries to get to know her suspect some interesting things come to light. Good story.
Barth Siemens
May 10, 2016 Barth Siemens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, mystery, glbt
I enjoyed how the idea of The Fool was incorporated into the story, not only for character that was so identified but also in reference by other characters.
Feb 04, 2016 Tina rated it liked it
Boy, howdy, is this chick wordy. The story was interesting, but I found myself skimming.

I'll probably pick up the next book in the series, but I need to give it a rest for a while.
Feb 25, 2016 Trine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bridgette Redman
Feb 24, 2012 Bridgette Redman rated it it was amazing
Over the holidays, one of our major cleaning tasks was to pull all of our books off our various bookshelves, out from under our bed, in our dresser, in the closets, etc. and sort them. We sorted them into boxes to be donated to the library, boxes to put into storage, a pile to put into the “secondary” bookshelf, and then the honored books that would go into our living room bookshelf. These would be books that had importance to us—some child raising books, our scripts and monologue books, books ...more
Oct 09, 2016 Amanda rated it liked it
This book was a quick afternoon read, but not the type of mystery I tend to really enjoy. It also feels incredibly dated, with car phones and pagers instead of cell phones and computers. There was a lot of theory rather than action, which made me glad it wasn't any longer. Overall it was fine, but I probably wouldn't recommend it.
Oct 01, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
A good read, an interesting mystery. Also some interesting stuff on Holy Fools.
Jill Holmes
Nov 13, 2012 Jill Holmes rated it really liked it
The second book in Laurie R. King's series featuring Detective Kate Martinelli explores the history and eccentricities related to "Holy Fools", men and women who expose human frailties through jests and acting out opposites to those frailties. St. Francis was one of the first and best known of the Holy Fools to emerge from religious backgrounds to construct their own orders of beliefs; he surrendered all his worldly goods to live a life of true wealth, a perfect example of the approach by ...more
Sep 23, 2013 Helen rated it it was amazing
Laurie King's modern day crime series is set in San Francisco where Kate Martinelli is the junior partner of Detective Inspector Al Hawkin. San Francisco has a large community of homeless people and they do watch out for each other to a certain extent. The community includes a man whom the others call Brother Erasmus, a man who speaks only in quotations but who acts as a mediator, a confidant and a teacher to anyone he meets. At the beginning one person's dog has been killed and the community ...more
Sep 19, 2015 Carolyn rated it liked it
This is the second of King's Kate Martinelli novels, and I did not like it nearly as much as the first. A huge chunk of the novel--maybe 80%--is spent following around a character who clearly is going to turn out not to have done it, so the murder mystery is actually ancillary to the whole thing. The interest here for the author is clearly the conceit of the religious Fool, about which I knew nothing, and which I did not actually find to be all that compelling. Worst of all, the novel in the end ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Bonnie rated it liked it
In this sequel to Laurie R. King's A Grave Talent, she focuses on the homeless people of San Francisco. Kate Martinelli and her partner Al Hawkin again work together to solve the murder of a homeless man whose dead dog had earlier been burned on a funeral pyre and now his body is also found smoldering.

Through interviewing the inhabitants of the park, they discover the man to see is Erasmus. When they first interview him, they cannot understand what is he is saying until they realize he speaks i
Oct 23, 2009 S rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I think this is the first Lesbian detective story that I've read where it's not heavy handed or jammed into your face with too many protestations.

Kate Martinelli is a good person, a police officer, who is working to solve a murder case while caring for her partner, who was damaged (to the point of paraplegia) in (I am guessing) the book before. They're a comfortable married couple dealing with the issues of Kate's work, Lee's work (she is a psychiatrist), Lee's struggle to heal, and aspects of a
R. Michael Litchfield
A mystery novel where the central crime & question of 'whodunnit' is of decidedly secondary or even tertiary concern. It's mostly focused on the nature of a suspect that no one in the novel really believes was guilty. The suspect is a Fool, one of the last dregs of an odd branch of the Jesus people movement of the seventies who tried to evoke devine light through the methods of court jesters crossed with zen monks.

I suppose it might have gripped me more if I were just encountering the concep
Joe Slavinsky
Jan 24, 2016 Joe Slavinsky rated it really liked it
Having read all, to date, of King's "Mary Russell" series, I thought I'd also read her "Kate Martinelli" series. I really liked "A Grave Talent", which deservedly won an Edgar award. I also liked this book, which(like the Russell series) was a decidedly different story, than the first book. I like the fact, that though Kate is a fairly strong personality, that she doesn't have the same self-confidence, or strong sense of self, as Mary Russell. Kate seems more vulnerable, particularly in dealing ...more
Dec 12, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it
A homeless man is murdered in a San Francisco park. Police Inspector Kate Martinelli heads the investigation. The chief suspect is the enigmatic Erasmus, a homeless preacher with a secret past, whose speech is a mix of quotations from the Bible, Shakespeare and other literary sources.

An intriguing crime thriller with insight into the role of the Fool through the centuries from St Francis of Assisi, through medieval jesters to the modern day.

This fellow is wise enough to play the fool,
And to do
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Edgar-winning mystery writer Laurie R. King writes series and standalone novels. Her official forum is
THE LRK VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB here on Goodreads--please join us for book-discussing fun.

King's most recent novel, Dreaming Spies, sees Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes travel from Japan to Oxford, in a case with international players and personal meaning. The Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series foll
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Other Books in the Series

Kate Martinelli (5 books)
  • A Grave Talent  (Kate Martinelli, #1)
  • With Child (Kate Martinelli, #3)
  • Night Work (Kate Martinelli, #4)
  • The Art of Detection (Kate Martinelli, #5)

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