The Bawdy Basket

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Tess Allegra

Nicholas Bracewell, stage manager of the Elizabethan actors’ troupe, Westfield’s Men, has a serious problem when a young, distracted fledgling actor, Frank Quilter, starts spoiling the current production. When Frank confides that his father is falsely accused of murder and will be hanged soon, the ever-kindhearted Nicholas agrees to help. Before he can, Gerald Quilter is hanged—and young Quilter vows revenge, taking a leave of absence to trail the perjurers when help arrives from an unlikely source: Moll Comfrey, a comely young “bawdy basket” who travels with the Bartholomew Fair.

This is an elaborate tale that promises much, but doesn’t satisfy. The usual colorful characters and a clutter of new ones give the reader a glimpse of Elizabethan life, but the pace is slow. Even the title character plays primarily an offstage role. Not until the final “chase scene” is there any palpable action in this novel. After many previously entertaining novels, Marston’s current tale appears less of a romp and more an amble.