Acting can seriously damage your health

Edward Marston's The malevolent comedy is a fun read. Set during Elizabethan times it's one of his long series of Nicholas Bracewell novels following the adventures of Bracewell and theatrical company Lord Westfield's Men.

Desperate to find some new plays when their resident playwright develops writer's block, Lawrence Firethorn, their actor-manager, happens upon Saul Hibbert, an up-and-coming playwright, whose latest play The malevolent comedy looks like a sure-fire success. Sure enough the comedy is well received, but it comes at an enormous price when a young actor is murdered onstage. Bracewell is convinced that Lord Westfield's Men just happen to be in the line of fire of an assault that is aimed at Hibbert. As events escalate Bracewell has to find a way to save the players from an all too real revenge tragedy.

There are hiccups and the occasional unconvincing moment, but generally this is a rollicking good read with a lovely background to the story, as Marston brings Elizabethan London to life. The theatre company are well portrayed, and there are moments of real tension. It's a fun, quick read and hugely enjoyable whether you're looking for a light crime story, or a bit of historical fiction. Quite dark at times, there are also moments of pure comedy skillfully blended.

I have read previous Bracewell mysteries and enjoyed those too, and must revisit the whole series.


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