Murder by Misrule: A Francis Bacon Mystery

Written by Anna Castle
Review by Steve Donoghue

The clarification of Anna Castle’s beguiling debut novel Murder by Misrule is ‘A Francis Bacon Mystery,’ and although technically accurate – Bacon takes up the investigation into the murder of a fellow lawyer of his at London’s famous Gray’s Inn – it does a slight disservice to the real star of the book, Bacon’s hastily-drafted assistant and general all-around flunky, Thomas Clarady. The danger-loving son of a privateer, Clarady is the Archie Goodwin to Bacon’s Nero Wolfe as the two delve the depths of London’s backstreets and seething demimonde in search of the killers – and traitors, since Bacon’s uncle, the Queen’s majordomo, Lord Burghley, suspects hidden Catholic intrigues everywhere.

Castle’s period research is thorough but unobtrusive, and her delight in the clashing personalities of her crime-fighting duo is palpable: this is the winning fictional odd couple of the year, with Bacon’s near-omniscience being effectively grounded by Clarady’s street smarts. The book builds effectively to its climax, and a last-minute revelation that is particularly well-handled, but readers will most appreciate the wry humor. An extremely promising debut.