Author: Edward Marston
Original language: English
1587, and Mary, Queen of Scots, dies by the executioner’s axe, her head, shorn of its auburn wig, rolling across the platform. Will her death end the ceaseless plotting against Mary’s red-haired cousin, Elizabeth?
1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, is a time of more terror and triumph, not just for queen and court but for the whole of England. The turmoil is reflected in its theatres and under the galleries of inns like London’s The Queen’s Head where Lord Westfield’s Men perform. The scene there on grows even more tumultuous when one of the actors is murdered by a mysterious stranger during a brawl.
Nicholas Bracewell, the company’s bookholder, a role far wider than mere producer, faces two immediate repercussions. The first is to secure a replacement acceptable to its temperamental star — and chief shareholder — Lawrence Firethorn. The second is to keep his promise to the dying Will Fowler and catch his killer.
Soon further robberies, accidents, and misfortunes strike Lord Westfield’s Men even as their stage successes swell. Bracewell begins to suspect a conspiracy, not a single murderous act, but where lies the proof? Then the players are rewarded with the ultimate accolade — an appearance at court — and the canny bookholder senses the end to the drama is at hand….
First published to great acclaim in 1988, The Queen’s Head anticipated the lure of bawdy, boisterous, yet elegant epics like Shakespeare in Love. Actor and playwrite Marston has followed with, to date, ten more lusty, historically grounded, theatrically sound Bracewell mysteries that explore the face of England and reveal his deep love for its rich literary and dramatic heritage. The Roaring Boy wasnominated for a 1996 Edgar Award for Best Novel.
From Publishers Weekly
Marston launches a series with this first appearance of Nicholas Bracewell, “book holder” for an English theatrical company in 1588. Not only the prompter but also the wise manager of the group, Bracewell must cope with temperamental thespians and other, more grave crises. As England rejoices in the triumph over the Spanish Armada, the troupe rehearses a play honoring Queen Elizabeth, which she will attend. Hopes for a gala performance are dashed when a villain named “Redbeard” kills actor Will Fowler; that event and other incidents lead Bracewell to suspect a plot to ruin the company. Helped by Sam Ruff, who substitutes for Fowler, the manager keeps up morale and takes steps to guard against Redbeard in advance of the queen’s arrival at the theater. Marston’s exhilarating mystery, ending with a bang-up close–on and off stage–is colored by details about the acting profession at that time and, sadly, about the era’s mortal quarrels between Catholics and Protestants.