A Shakespearean Murder Mystery
By Philip Gooden
Constable (Constable & Robinson) - June 2002
ISBN: 184119381X - HB
Mystery / Historical Crime
1601 Wiltshire, England

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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The Chamberlain's Men are on tour in the provinces; leaving smoky London for the Wiltshire Downs and the country estate of Lord Elcombe to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream for his elder son's wedding.

But the groom is extremely reluctant; a wild hermit lives in the woods and a trio of Bible-thumping morality players are also playing on the estate. Nick Revill has been set upon in Salisbury and has made the acquaintance of the unconventional magistrate Adam Fielding and his beautiful daughter Kate and with whom he fancies himself in love. But he will be seeing a lot more of the magistrate under different circumstances when the murders start happening and he takes it upon himself to lend a hand in their solution.

This is the third adventure for player Nick Revill and is set at the time when actors had just begun to get a grudging respect from the populace. Under noble patronage and with Shakespeare's plays, they were more likely to be seen as enviable than just "sturdy beggars." Nick makes an excellent narrator for his tale and seeing it all unfold through his eyes brings it to life in a way that third person narratives don't quite manage. It is a fine device for a historical tale giving an insight into the world of Shakespeare's contemporaries.

The story is an enjoyable country house murder, cozy perhaps, but a great armchair read and I certainly didn't guess it all. Gooden has a great storytelling style and this is his best effort yet, although I would like to get to know the other players better. Nick has a way of describing events, people met and giving opinions, but without including a clear picture of his fellow players, which is a pity. This aside, I look forward to his next adventure.

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