The Devil’s Apprentice

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Tess Allegra

Elizabethan London’s cruel winter finds the acting troupe Westfield’s Men looking for work, so an invitation to perform at Sir Michael Greenleaf’s Essex manor seems heaven sent. However, there are two provisos: they must perform at least one original play and take on a new apprentice, Davy Stratton, son of a prominent Essex merchant.

The troupe learns of a good new play, The Witch of Colchester, so that is one condition satisfied. Davy, approved by “book holder” Nicholas Bracewell, soon creates trouble among the older apprentices and escapes. Hunted down by his angry father, Davy promises to atone but ends up causing more trouble, earning him the nickname “devil’s apprentice.” When the troupe’s robust lead actor begins having strange physical symptoms that mimic those of his character, the militant leader of the local Puritan sect claims that supernatural powers are involved – an excuse for ridding Essex of the actors. And when a prominent audience member dies suddenly on opening night, it becomes Bracewell’s job to uncover the truth, fend off a mad killer, and keep the actors happy in this action-filled and period-rich novel of suspense.

This is a very satisfying mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end and enjoying the voyage to discovering the true “devil’s apprentice.”