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

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  2,697 ratings  ·  142 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 June 1st 1996 by Crimeline (first published February 1st 1995)
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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
"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 t ...more
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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. Ever ...more
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am really enjoying this series. The relationship between Al and Kate has become very comfortable although Kate's relationship with Lee seems to be stalling. I thought the character of Brother Erasmus was fell conceived, although at times this book seemed to concentrate on him and the concept of Fools more than it did the actual murder. I have to admit that I found the final solution of the murder a bit of a let-down. I wont say anything more about that because I don't want to spoil anybody. Th ...more
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
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 cr ...more
Jill Holmes
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 opposi ...more
Oct 23, 2009 S rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Bridgette Redman
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 w ...more
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
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
Fictionista Du Jour
I don't tend to enjoy supermarket murder mysteries, but several things endeared me to this one, almost immediately.

1. Tortured-soul, lesbian cop. Enough said.
2. Set in my Bay Area, so I could picture everything that happened.
3. Literary allusions sprinkled through the entire thing made me want to re-read, so I could savor what I didn't know before the case was tied up.
4. Historical religious movements centered around St. Francis of Assisi, and the idea of being ridiculous as divine.

That said, so
Lost Book Thoughts
(4.25 Stars, no spoilers)

While the writing was just as strong in this book, the book wasn't as good as the first. The main topic of the murder, "the fool", was not my favorite. There was also not the same level of danger or suspense. Still I read most of it straight through and fairly quickly. I think this speaks to the strength of the writing and characterization. Happy reading!
I enjoyed To Play the Fool, although it isn't what I generally picture as a murder mystery. Much like the previous Kate Martinelli book, To Play the Fool focuses on the life of an eccentric individual (in this case, Brother Erasmus). It also eschews many of the mannerisms I found annoying in the first book.

I'll be reading the next book in the series.
The book had some interesting aspects: San Francisco location, history of Fools, literary quotations woven into the story. The later was the book's main trust and got a little tiresome for those non English major types such as myself. It was not exactly a page turner thriller, but served to entertain during a long airplane flight.
Loved this book even more that A Grave Talent! Loved, loved, loved getting to know Brother Erasmus and learning of his past. Such a unique reveal and such well written characters. Bravo to Laurie R. King. I am definitely turning into a fanatic! While there are aspects of the Russell/Holmes series that I struggle with, I whole-heartedly embrace the characters in the Martinelli series. Can't wait to read more! (but will have to as I am currently reading Folly one of her stand alones. Highly recomm ...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
I didn't like "To Play the Fool" nearly as well as the first in the series. I hoped for more depth from the characters, and even though the plot centered around an idea that should've appealed to me (a modern "holy fool" movement) it was a bit overly academic and forced for my taste.
Sibylle Seys smets
Je suis partagée. Tout ce qui touche à Frère Erasme et aux SDF est assez réussi mais le côté intellectualisant des nombreuses citations ne suffit pas à combler une certaine pauvreté d intrigue. Pas désagréable à lire mais pas immanquable.
Laurie R. King is one of the most talented, intelligent writers creating stories today. This is the second Kate Martinelli mystery, set in contemporary San Francisco. Many of her books have a religious element, and this one is no different: when a homeless man is killed and his body is almost cremated, Brother Erasmus (another homeless man, a monk-like figure) seems to be involved. Because Erasmus speaks only in quotations, Kate finds it extremely challenging to get any information from him and ...more
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Edgar-winning mystery writer Laurie R. King writes series and standalone novels. Her official forum is
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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)
The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1) A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell, #2) O Jerusalem (Mary Russell, #5) A Letter of Mary (Mary Russell, #3) The Language of Bees (Mary Russell, #9)

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