When fire destroys their London theatre, Lord Westfield's players must seek out humbler venues in the countryside. But company manager Nicholas Bracewell is distracted by a shocking tragedy: a mysterious messenger from his native Devon is murdered by poison.
Though the messenger is silenced, Nicholas understands what he must do: Return to his birthplace and reconcile some unfinished business of the past. The rest of Westfield's men, penniless and dejected, ride forth with him on a nightmare tour that will perhaps become their valedictory, dogged as they are by plague, poverty, rogues, and thieves. And among the sinister shadows that glide silently with them toward Devon is one who means Nicholas never to arrive.
©1994 Edward Marston (P)2014 Soundings
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"Trickery, treachery, murder, thieves, plague..."
Villains galore in this historically interesting, though kind of light and fun reading, in Edward Marsten's book, "The Silent Woman." To my dismay, thinking I'd try something outside of his 19th century Railroad mystery series, I accidentally began with the 6th book in his series about Elizabethan actors. I say dismay, only because I prefer starting series from the beginning. I think it worked out okay, as the characters are well-drawn, and it didn't seem that the author assumed the reader knew who they all were.
That said, this was a romp through the apparently perilous times of approximately 16th century England as a troupe of actors, displaced by fire in their regular theater, seek audiences elsewhere. Along the way, Nicholas Bracewell realizes that someone bringing him a message from his past in Devon has been killed. So he decides to go there to face some of his own history. As they travel together, the group meets everything short of a plague of locusts (though they do run into the Plague, the illness, in Oxford).
One man does not want Bracewell to get to Devon, and so all the cloak and dagger exploits begin. In a run of almost unending mishaps, where each side tries to outsmart the other, every device the author can think of is employed to create what almost has the feel of melodrama, so predictable does the string of setbacks and dangerous escapades occur. I liked it, but I think it is written in a way that would also appeal to young people. The narrator uses a slightly exaggerated voice in places, suitable to the dramatic atmosphere being created.
In theory, the episodes of Nicholas and the men moving toward Devon vs those trying to stop them could have continued forever. While fun, they felt a little as though they were meant to keep the story going longer and longer and occasionally just felt a bit silly. But this is a neat book to listen to if you want something that has historical interest, action every step of the way, intrigue and villainy throughout, and a well-written book. Just don't try to take it too seriously. Recommend.
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