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Thursday 9 August 2018

‘A Stage For Murder’ by Peter Tonkin

Published by Sharp Books,
15 May 218.
ISBN: 978-1-98290476-0 (PB)

It is 1598 and in Ireland the English troops are defeated by Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell.

To help solve the matter the Earl of Essex is called to court and he sets his spies, Francis Bacon and Gelly Meyrick to work to find out what is being planned next.
Meanwhile William Shakespeare and his men are dismantling The Theatre ready to move it to Bankside on the south side of the Thames. They have been forbidden by their landlord to use it where it is and need a new site.

However, when removing the stage, they find beneath it a body. The face is frozen in a scream of terror. They call in Will's friend Tom Musgrave, self-styled Master of Logic and Master of Defence in a quest to find the person's identity and solve the apparent murder.

Then another body is discovered, and Tom finds that they were both carrying secret messages, but all in code. He must try to decipher their meaning as he uncovers evidence that the Queen herself may be in danger.

At the same time, it becomes clear that the trouble in Ireland has something to do with the deaths, especially when an attempt is made on the poet Edmund Spenser's life. He has been trying to get recruits to go and fight in Ireland after his castle was set on fire resulting in the death of one of his children.

Many more deaths occur, and Tom and Will are desperate to solve the messages and prevent more bloodshed on the streets of London.

Another mystery is the identity of a number of people whose nose and ears have been cut off and mouths slit from side to side. They cover their disfigurements with tightly wound scarves.

Will Kempe the famous comedy actor in Shakespeare's plays seems to be behaving in a suspicious way too, can he have anything to do with the intrigue? Evidence comes to light that whatever is being planned is due to take place on Twelfth Night so it becomes even more urgent to solve the mystery.

An interesting and unusual concept, having Shakespeare helping solve murder and intrigue. 1598 London really comes to life in the descriptive narrative, it is easy to imagine the dirty dark streets riddled with crime and mayhem.

In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, the author mentions that parts of the plot are based on fact. There had actually been discussions on using the Irish army to invade England and snatch the throne. Recommended for those interested in Elizabethan England.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Peter Tonkin was born 1 January 1950 in Ulster, son of an RAF officer. He spent much of his youth travelling the world from one posting to another. He went to school at Portora Royal, Enniskillen and Palmer's, Grays. He sang, acted, and published poetry, winning the Jan Palac Memorial Prize in 1968. He studied English with Seamus Heaney at Queen's Belfast. His first novel, Killer, was published in 1978. His work has included the acclaimed "Mariner" series that have been critically compared with the best of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes. More recently he has been working on a series of detective thrillers with an Elizabethan background.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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