The Queen’s Head
This paperback is a reissue of the first of the Bracewell Elizabethan mysteries originally published in 1988. Nicholas Bracewell is an ex-sailor who circumnavigated the world with Drake. Now he is a book holder (i.e., stage manager) for Westfield’s Men, a well-known theatre company in Elizabethan London. Mary, Queen of Scots is no more, the Armada is defeated and Westfield’s Men is to present their play ‘The Loyal Subject’ as part of the Court’s celebrations. However, trouble strikes the company when Will Fowler, one of the actors and a friend of Bracewell, is run through in an inn brawl. It’s murder, and Fowler dies requesting Bracewell seek out his killer. In between his arduous task of managing the play for the Queen’s performance – the actors and their egos or petty vanities that cause so much pother – Bracewell searches the less salubrious areas of London, particularly the brothels, for the vicious red-bearded killer. As he draws near to the killer and his associates, Bracewell begins to uncover a plot. Determined to protect the theatre company he plans a counter plot which, with the help of a promising young boy actor, succeeds in dramatic fashion.
Excellent historical research, lots of amusing details about Elizabethan stagecraft and special effects, and a cheerful mix of engaging characters make The Queen’s Head a satisfying read.