cover image The Wanton Angel

The Wanton Angel

Edward Marston. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20391-7

Marston's civilized series set in the theater world of Elizabethan England receives its 10th, expert installment. Gentle and intelligent, Nicholas Bracewell is the book holder of Westfield's Men, a troupe that's under attack from every direction. Their oaf of a landlord is out for blood because someone has taken advantage of his young daughter. Then the Privy Council decrees that only two companies will be allowed to perform in London, which means one will have to be disbanded. Since Westfield's Men lack a proper theater, they are at a disadvantage and decide to raise money to construct one of their own. It's up to suave, well-turned out Sylvester Pryde to find the money. Shortly after he succeeds, he is found murdered. Bracewell must calm his balky troupe, keep defections to the other companies to a minimum, find the killer and soothe the new patron. Marston's calm, well-wrought tale stands in contrast to the treachery-filled, bloody tales his characters are reenacting. He keeps introspection to a minimum, letting his imagination run when envisioning the period, which he does in high style, from intrigue at Court to events on stage, to the taprooms of London. As one of his characters says, ""True art consists in concealing the huge efforts which lie behind it""--and how well that seems to apply to Marston. (July)