Publish and Perish

Written by Anna Castle
Review by Anna Belfrage

It is an art to bring the past to life, an art at which Ms Castle excels. Through a myriad of small details, she firmly anchors this 16th-century murder mystery featuring Francis Bacon in the heady times of the aging Elizabeth I: a time of political and religious unrest, capably managed by the aging but as yet very powerful Lord Burghley.

At the heart of the story lies religious dissent. A non-conformist pamphleteer going by the name of Martin Marprelate has pointed a finger at the Anglican Church, accusing it of being anything but a reformed church. The archbishop fights back, hiring his own pamphleteers to refute the accusations. A war of words turns into something far more sinister when two of these unfortunate writers end up dead. Francis Bacon and his engaging clerk, Tom Clarady, are soon involved in a dangerous game to catch the murderer.

Other than a deliciously convoluted plot and the richly described historical setting, Ms Castle gives us a wonderful cast of characters, all the way from the charming Tom and his best friend (and secret love) Trumpet, a.k.a. Lady Alice, to real historical figures such as Francis Bacon’s intimidating aunt, Lady Russell and, of course, Bacon’s uncle and cousin, Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil respectively. Flowing prose, precise and tight dialogue, and characters that grow on you: what more can a reader ask for? All in all, Publish and Perish is a delightful and very satisfying read.