Shortlisted for Book of the Month
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A Francis Bacon Mystery #4
Tudor / late 1500s
Since some years back, I am something of a fan of Ms Castle’s books, be they set in the 19th century and featuring a certain Mr Moriarty or in the 16th century and featuring Sir Francis Bacon. No matter what period Ms Castle uses for her setting, she excels at bringing the past to life. In Publish and Perish we are in Elizabethan London and the brilliant if not so successful Sir Francis Bacon has a murder mystery to solve—before things get really out of hand. England under the ageing Elizabeth I is beset by political and religious unrest and the equally ageing Lord Burghley is determined to ensure such unrest is contained.
At the heart of the story lies religious dissent. A non-conformist pamphleteer going by the name of Martin Marprelate has pointed a finger at the Anglican Church, accusing it of being anything but a reformed church. (As a little aside, Martin Marprelate did exist and the controversy sparked by his pamphlets is a matter of historical record.) The archbishop of Canterbury is very upset by Marprelate’s writings and fights back, hiring his own pamphleteers to refute the accusations. A war of words turns into something far more sinister when two of these unfortunate writers end up dead. Francis Bacon and his engaging clerk, Tom Clarady, are soon involved in a dangerous game to catch the murderer.
Ms Castle takes us for quite the ride. We climb through windows, visit some of the seedier locales in London, partake of food and drink in various taverns, now and then popping by to pay Lord Burghley a short if informative visit. As to who the murderer is and why, Ms Castle leaves the reader guessing for quite a long time—always a good quality in a mystery novel.
Other than a deliciously convoluted plot and the beautifully described historical setting, Ms Castle also gives us a wonderful cast of characters, all the way from the charming Tom and his best friend (and secret love) Trumpet, a.k.a. Lady Alice, to real historical figures such as Francis Bacon’s intimidating aunt, Lady Russell and, of course, Bacon’s uncle and cousin, Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil respectively. A flowing prose, a precise and tight dialogue and characters that grow on you: what more can a reader ask for? All in all, Publish and Perish was a delightful and very satisfying read.
© Anna Belfrage
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