book log: 76) Edward Marston – the Queen’s Head

First of the Nicholas Bracewell mystery series, set in a theatrical company in Elizabethan London. Bracewell is the bookholder for Lord Westfield’s Men, a responsible position in its own right even without the additional tasks taken on by Bracewell. Bracewell finds himself with an unexpected task of the worst kind when his friend  and colleague, actor Will Fowler, is called in a tavern brawl. Bracewell is determined to find the killer, but has other equally urgent matters to deal with, not least of which is ensuring nothing goes wrong with the performance of a new play before the Queen herself. Jealous rivalries both within the company and with another company aren’t helping matters…

It’s an entertaining romp, but unusually for Marston, there were a couple of elements that could be problematic for many readers. They’re historically accurate, but nevertheless they need flagging up. One is the portrayal of one of the senior actors as having a taste for pretty boys, and this being tolerated as long as he leaves the company’s apprentices alone – which he doesn’t. Given other things he’s written I don’t think Marston intended this, but it does come over as equating “homosexual” with “pedarest”. The other is that the book does get into the head of characters with the strong anti-Catholic prejudices one might expect in this time period.


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