By Edward Marston
Poisoned Pen Press - December 2001
ISBN 189020868X - Paperback
Historical Crime
1580s, London

Reviewed by: Rachel A Hyde,
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Here is a reprint of the fourth novel in Edward Marston's perennially popular series about the adventures of Lord Westfield's Men, a troupe of actors at the time when Shakespeare was treading the boards. In this tale, Laurence Firethorn, the shining star of the troupe has fallen in love yet again, as has writer and fellow actor Edmund Hoode. The Lord Mayor is about to be elected and corruption is rife amongst the guilds, entailing a lot of foul play including murder. As usual it is up to Nicholas Bracewell to sort it out and, as The Bard would have put it "make the odds all even".

I was left feeling that there could have been more odds and, although this is nominally a murder story, the murder itself takes a back seat to the theatrical shenanigans involving the loves of Laurence (the would-be Lord Mayor's young wife) and a versifying waterman. All this is fairly entertaining, but it does get rather silly and tedious. A bit more rigorous investigating and action would have made for a better story, if this is a murder mystery rather than a romantic comedy. It all redeems itself towards the end when the disparate strands tie themselves neatly together, and there is a distinct ah-ha moment for the reader, but I would say that it is one of the weaker entries in what is, on the whole, a remarkably fine series. In particular, fans of Shakespeare in Love ought to find plenty to enjoy.

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