cover image The Roaring Boy: [A Novel]

The Roaring Boy: [A Novel]

Edward Marston. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13155-5

As Marston's seventh excellent Elizabethan theater mystery (after The Silent Woman) opens, Lord Westfield's Men are performing in the yard of the Queen's Head when the lead character misses his cue. It's not stage fright: he's dead. Nicholas Bracewell, book holder and sleuth, devises an ingenious way to finish the show, but the company needs a new play fast. A mysterious manuscript called The Roaring Boy arrives; based on a recent scandalous murder, it argues that justice miscarried horribly in the case. From the moment they decide to stage the play, Nicholas and his troupe are embroiled in a real-life drama involving beatings, murders, treason, torture, incest, arson, blooming love and a ghastly toothache. Marston's colorful (and convincing) characterizations shine as Nicholas chases the secrets of the murder in order to save the company. The plot, except for one transparently finagled episode, is expertly wrought, with the suspense building steadily to a breathtaking climax and some surprises saved for the very end. (July)