Headline - 2000
ISBN 0747223130 - Hardback

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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This is the fifth outing for Dr Simon Forman, real-life physician and sometime sleuth who has a tough job staying out of trouble in 1590s London. This time he is in a worse mess than usual as not only has he joined the School of the Night (a secret society of "new thinkers" such as scientists, mathematicians and alchemists) he also finds himself suspected of poisoning three people!  Is the candied sea holly at fault, which he wants to test out as an aphrodisiac?  Two people fall ill after eating it at a School of the Night house party held at Sir Walter Ralegh's Sherborne residence and then a patient of his, an old man with a lusty young bride, eats some of his prescription and dies.  It's gaol for Simon and a possibility of his license being revoked unless he can uncover the identity of the real murderer.  His footsteps seem to be dogged by doctors of all kinds for some reason, he is aided by none other than Kit Marlowe and the lusty Countess of Pembroke and plagued by slanderous posters.  Somebody has a grudge, but Simon can't think
who - he seems to have so many enemies!

Another exciting and suspenseful yarn from Judith Cook that brings to life the London of Shakespeare's plays in all its muck and majesty.  The pace is unfailing and although it was easier to guess than some of the other titles in the series it was still a very enjoyable read.  My main criticism though would be the portrayal of Dr Forman himself.  By all accounts he was a wily customer and must have been a likeable rogue, attractive to women and having come up from nothing tough and clever and surely not lacking in style.  Cook 's Forman is in contrast a bland fellow whose gentle nature and lack of
common sense would have made an end of him long before he had even reached thirty.  He's just too nice. a little more spice and pepper to season him up and this would add up to an even tastier stew of fact and fiction.  As always though I look forward to his next adventure.

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