THAT SLEEP OF DEATH
by Philip Gooden
Here’s a novelty; a novel set around the world of the Elizabethan theater which doesn’t take place in the early 1590s and has nothing to do with the murder of Kit Marlowe! Instead it is circa 1600 and Shakespeare is in his prime while the newest member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men one Nick Revill is merely standing in while a player goes to visit his dying mother in Norfolk. When he is thrown out of his lodgings as well after an incident involving a whore, a chamber pot and his landlady things look bleak indeed but he is soon living in a wealthy mansion courtesy of a young man who tells him a curious story. His father has just died in circumstances identical to Hamlet’s father and to cap it all his mother has married his uncle and he himself is even dressed in black…it is Nick’s task to find out whodunit in exchange for his luxurious lodgings. But surely Shakespeare cannot be the murderer, even though all the evidence seems to point his way?!
Gooden has a nice turn of phrase and a fine line in puns which were much beloved by the Elizabethans and most of the time he manages to sound authentic without resorting to gadzookery. The last third of the novel is thrilling indeed but the earlier part tends to drag its feet somewhat due to there not being quite enough plot to fill the pages. There are some good descriptions of Elizabethan London and the characters are wryly observed through the narrator (Nick Revill’s) eyes, which is a nice touch. I think this is the first in a series that is going to get stronger as it gets into its stride but an adequate start for this new author who certainly has a way with words that points to long immersion in Elizabethan literature.
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