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Jack, Knave and Fool

(Sir John Fielding #5)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  758 ratings  ·  47 reviews
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 bli ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by Berkley (first published September 21st 1998)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  758 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Stacie  Haden
I love this series. Bruce Alexander was such a talented writer. I'm so drawn in to all of his characters. Sir John Fielding was a real (actually blind) judge in 18th century, England. His brother, Henry Fielding, wrote "Tom Jones", which I'll read soon. I love how his words feel like a book from that time, but without the confusion and archaic language that often comes with a book actually written in the late 1700's. I'm sure he would have won the Bruce Alexander award, named in his honor I'll b ...more
Another solid book in the series


Writing 4
Story line 4
Characters 4
Emotional impact 3

Overall rating 3.75
John Lee
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Although some of the books in this series have had to be purchased from across the Atlantic they are well worth it. This is the fifth in the set and 'The Blind Beak' is as on the ball as ever and 'young' Jeremy has started on his tentative steps towards a career in the law.

This story isnt so much a who-dun-it but a how-did-they-do-it.

On a recent visit to London we decided to hunt out the main area of activity of these books. We had a look around Covent Garden and then went to seek out the magi

Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
The characters keep getting deeper and more interesting, as does the historical detail. Some historical novelists want to impress their readers with their research, with lots of extraneous details clogging up the narrative. Alexander, though, has just the right touch, with enough to help readers understand the state of knowledge and social rules that influence the characters and plot.

If only they had the scientific tools we have today, it'd be a whole lot easier to determine cause of death. How
Paul Weiss
Not so much mystery as historical police procedural

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
Virginia Tican
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clarissa Roundtree is a plucky eleven year old, smart, well~read and full of gumption. She is also the daughter of a gifted carpenter with a propensity for spirits and who had the bad luck of aligning himself with greedy murderers. She is Jeremy's teasing Nemesis in this story with a hint of something more... maybe when they get older. Then there was also a head missing a body that was found underneath the noxious waters of the Fleet sewers reclaimed by the Lord Chief Justice and exhibited for p ...more
Maria Rose
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the fifth book by this author involving his main character Lord John Fielding, who is an eighteenth-century London blind judge, who has a great technique of deducting correctly who is the guilty party in crimes presented before him.
This book told through the eyes of Jeremy Proctor, his young assistant, and ward, who are facing a baffling group of deaths that have occurred within the same time period. One involves a double death ( a week apart) of the current Earl of Laningham and his wif
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed it. I appreciated being a part of the detecting as opposed to evidence suddenly showing up. Being told in the first person made an interesting twist. I know the author has passed on but I think I would like to read others in the series. I had read Blind Justice which was the first one but that was quite a while back.
Sandy Shin
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the fourth mystery we learn about the problems of determining poison in the dawn of a professional police force and the very real problems of living in a multi-class society especially when an Jamaican of mixed racial blood is added to the mix.
I am still charmed by the people and their lives and engaged in the mysteries presented.
Not my favorite of the series (that would be book #1) nor my least favorite. It took a while to grab my interest, but I liked the last 100 pages or so.
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As wonderful as all of his other books. I would read the phone book if this man wrote it. A treat.
Paula Dembeck
This is book five in the ongoing Sir John Fielding mystery series that takes place in London in the early 1770s.
Annie Oakum and Jeremy are now about sixteen years old and continue to live with Sir John and Lady Fielding, considered almost members of the family. But they each have their own roles and responsibilities. Annie as cook continues to turn out delicious meals but she is also anxious to learn to read. Jeremy continues in his role as “Man Friday” to Sir John, filling in as scribe, read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher Taylor
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable continuation of the story. This one does not follow a single case, but instead has several somewhat intertwined cases and spends more time looking at the members of the Fielding household.

In this book we're introduced to Clarissa Roundtree, who eventually becomes the narrator Jeremy's sweetheart (very eventually, its slow building as she is quite young and he considers her a somewhat frustrating but likable kid).

This one is less filled with historical tidbits than simply historical
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very much enjoyed this book. The plot was engaging enough to keep me turning pages, anxious to find out what happened next, and I really enjoyed the introduction of a new character into the Fielding household.

I'll admit that one of the two mysteries was a bit less gripping than it might otherwise have been, simply because I think any dedicated reader of mysteries might know a bit more about certain types of poison than your average 18th century magistrate... so there may have been a time or two
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When a lord unexpectedly dies at a concert, Sir John and Jeremy immediately look for foul play. But the murderer seems to have covered his tracks to well. And when a head is fished out of the Thames it is imperative to identify it before a proper investigation can begin.

It's fascinating to get an idea how brutal it was to be poor in this era and how lawless the streets could be. I constantly find that my impressions of this era and city have been formed by the rich and genteel, and they were rea
At a musical evening, the patron drops dead and Sir John suspects poison but no autopsy is granted. When his wife also dies she blames poison and the heir. THen attacks are made on the air. Meanwhile, a drunkenness charge slips Jeremy and then refuses to come in even for the sake of his daughter and a great offer of payment over time. Something isn't right about that. A head is found and Jimmie Bunkins tentatively identifies it as a fence. The man is missing but his wife claims all is well. As t ...more
Bruce Alexander – 5th in series
Sir John Fielding and his young assistant, 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 will learn a great deal more than they ever cared to about family, greed, deception. and the peculiar nature of homicide, high and low.

Filled with the authentic sights and sounds of the era and well de
This, the fifth in the series of historical mysteries featuring Sir John Fielding, the Blind Beak of Bow Street, and his ward Jeremy Proctor, is a worthy entry in the series. Jeremy's character continues to develop, as does that of the cook Annie. I gave it only three stars because I easily guessed the solution to one of the mysteries, since it hinged on a method of murder also used in a much more famous detective novel. Dr. Gabriel Donnelly, the ex-Navy surgeon, features largely in this book, a ...more
Brandy Painter
I really enjoyed this series when I first started it but as I've continued it my enjoyment has been steadily decreasing. I skipped and skimmed great chunks of this one without missing anything and keeping up with both mysteries just fine. In the previous novel I noticed some places where 2oth century ideals and thoughts were being unrealistically spouted by the characters and this continues in this volume as well. I think maybe I need to take a break from the series for a while before moving on ...more
Penny Shukan
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the 6th book in a series about Sir John Fielding, magistrate in a London court in the late 18th century. The books are based on a real character, a blind judge, who created the first London police force, and was a fair and honest man. The stories are told in the voice of his assistant and are quite good. You get a very broad picture of life in London at the time and the condition of the justice system. I've really liked all the books and expect to complete the series. ...more
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
another good one in this series. jeremy is maturing and getting more responsibility. he seemed more independent in this one, too, and a new character was introduced. i liked that he called her miss pooh - funny. he's seeming like a big brother and is growing inceasingly valuable to sir john - both as a constable in training and a memebr of the family. on to #6. ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it liked it
The best part of this book was tying a really nasty character in the last book in the series. I also like the way Alexander includes real people from that time period in London meeting his fictional characters in logical settings for them all to be. The murders at the heart of this book are not that interesting.
International Cat Lady
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent - if at times dry - set of mysteries that intertwine around one another, and at times interconnect. Incredibly well-written and very British.

'When I asked Sir John if he had any idea of her whereabouts, he simply shrugged and said, "More than likely to the colonies. They seem to accept most of our trash." '

Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it
My third historical Sir John Fielding novel. This story set in 1770's London follows the exploits of charcters familiar to the series. Sir John is still assisted by young Jeremy and much of the household goings-on take center stage. Alexander does a good job of incorporating all of his charchters into the story without setting up a unrelated plot to put forward minor character story lines. ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is only, the fifth book in Sir John Fielding series, and for me, the best one jet. All the main characters were awesome in their roles. The main mysterious deaths were divided in two separate cases and both cases were greatly developed, written and executed. I loved it all!
Sure, pace in this whole series in kind of slow and gives a calm vibe, but nonetheless, it's great work!
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This was not a bad book or a bad mystery. It even devoted at least as much time to the personal development of the main characters apart from the mystery, something I usually enjoy quite a bit. My entire problem was that I never really warmed to any of the characters though I don't necessarily think it was due to any flaw peculiar to them. ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it liked it
I thought I had read all of this series and was so delighted to find a new one in Bookbuyers, a great Monterey Bookstore. Great period detail and finely detailed characters. The mystery isn't exactly riveting but the story itself and the characters are. ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I simply love this series. However, the narrator speaks in the "old English" style..which is appropriate. Because of this, I have not read the entire series yet. I tend to need a break from the complicated writing style. But brilliant series. ...more
Sandy Bell
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it
I love this series! A 1770's blind judge and the boy who is his eyes. (Sort of Holmes and Watson.) Fun, quick read with interesting and lovable characters. This wasn't my favorite of the series. yet it isn't stopping me from making sure I enjoy them all. ...more
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Pseudonym of American journalist and author Bruce Cook.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Bruce Alexander Cook (1932–2003) was an American journalist and author who wrote under the pseudonym Bruce Alexander, creating historical novels about a blind 18th century Englishman and also a 20th century Mexican-American detective.

Other books in the series

Sir John Fielding (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Blind Justice (Sir John Fielding, #1)
  • Murder in Grub Street (Sir John Fielding, #2)
  • Watery Grave (Sir John Fielding, #3)
  • Person or Persons Unknown (Sir John Fielding, #4)
  • Death of a Colonial (Sir John Fielding, #6)
  • The Color of Death (Sir John Fielding, #7)
  • Smuggler's Moon (Sir John Fielding, #8)
  • An Experiment In Treason (Sir John Fielding, #9)
  • The Price of Murder (Sir John Fielding, Book 10)
  • Rules of Engagement (Sir John Fielding, #11)

News & Interviews

Psychological thrillers that will leave your head spinning. Cold cases, detectives hot on a trail, unreliable narrators, and a dash of poison...
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