The Vagabond Clown

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Steve Lewis

Marston is a wonderfully prolific writer. Besides two series of detective novels written as Kenneth Miles, which is his real name, he has three additional series under the Marston pseudonym, all historical mysteries. Here’s his most recent effort, a return visit to Elizabethan times and Nicholas Bracewell, book holder for the accomplished acting company we’ve met before, Westfield’s Men.

What a book holder does includes the jobs of both stage manager and road manager, and Nicholas has his work cut out for him in this somewhat uneven entry, what with one clown incapacitated with a broken leg, and the second, recruited from a debtor’s cell, subject to serious bouts of wine, women and japery.

Murder and other calamities also follow the trail of the traveling troupe as they make their way from London to Dover, making adjustments to their plays as they go. The jealousies and acrimony between the two clowns make for fine amusement, and the life on the road in another era is described to perfection. The solution to the mystery is more than a little weak, however, with the motivations hidden until the end, far too late to be of much help to the reader at home, even though the culprits themselves are painfully obvious. Uneven, as I say, but definitely worth reading.