cover image The Silent Woman: [A Novel]

The Silent Woman: [A Novel]

Edward Marston. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-312-11115-1

Sparkling with humor, dramatic twists and deft turns of phrase, the sixth adventure of Marston's Elizabethan acting troupe exhibits all the aplomb and panache that mark its lead player, Lawrence Firethorn. A fire at the Queen's Head, home of Westfield's Men, the company for which sleuthing hero Nicholas Bracewell is book holder, sends the troupe on tour until the repairs are finished. While they are readying for the road, a messenger arrives at Bracewell's room. The messenger, a young woman from Bracewell's home town, dies of poisoning before delivering her message. Moved to avenge the death, Bracewell reluctantly considers a visit to his hometown, where he abandoned the woman he hoped to marry after acrimoniously breaking with his father, who had insisted he wed another. The company moves out and is met by two devastating setbacks: trickery by master robber Israel Gunby and the discovery that their first venue, Oxford, is shut down by the plague. As the company arranges a trap for Gunby, Bracewell returns to his North Devon past and learns of some harsh truths harbored there before the rousing conclusion when all are reunited at the refashioned Queen's Head. (May)