cover image The Mad Courtesan

The Mad Courtesan

Edward Marston. St. Martin's Press, $18.95 (252pp) ISBN 978-0-312-08259-8

Stage manager Nicholas Bracewell must juggle his company, his patron and a murder investigation in Marston's fifth Elizabethan-era theater mystery, which features political intrigue along with low and high comedy. Fellow actors in a troupe called Westfield's Men, Owen Elias and Sebastian Carrick are both considered for the coveted position of shareholder. Chief actor and leading shareholder Lawrence Firethorn decides to back Carrick, but before the successful candidate can learn of his good fortune, he is killed returning from a brothel. At the funeral, Bracewell promises Carrick's sister that he will find the murderer. Concurrently the future of Westfield's Men is in question as rumors circulate that Queen Elizabeth is dying: perhaps a new monarch might not be a drama lover, or might favor a rival patron. While Bracewell tackles these issues, gnarly Cornelius Gant and his wonder horse Nimbus catch the public's fancy, and a mystery woman tempts Firethorn to miss a performance. Marston ( The Nine Giants ) expertly juggles murder, the theater setting and the historical background of not-so-merry old England. (Nov.)