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The Bawdy Basket

(Book 12 in the Nicholas Bracewell series)
A novel by

On top of the usual, waggishly presented intrigues facing Elizabethan London's most calamity-prone theater company, Westfield's Men, come still more dire threats, in Edward Marston's The Bawdy Basket: The troupe risks losing both its creative genius and its financial backing. Troubles begin with the execution of Gerald Quilter, a prosperous businessman unjustly convicted of murder, whose son Frank has recently joined Westfield's Men. Despite his fellow actors' misgivings, Frank is determined to clear his father's name, and Nicholas Bracewell, the company's stage manager and resourceful troubleshooter, agrees to help--even if it costs him his job. Meanwhile, playwright Edmund Hoode, renowned for his unrequited romances ("Your whole life is one long, desperate, lovesick sigh," another player reminds him), seems finally to have found a woman to share his heart. Yet she insists that Hoode forsake the stage and pen sonnets solely in her tribute. As disaster looms in his troupe's future, Bracewell's search for reasons behind the framing of Gerald Quilter leads to a young woman peddler, and also attracts the predatory attention of a moneylender anxious to bankrupt the pleasure-seeking patron of Westfield's Men.

Marston, a prolific author of historical mysteries (also published under his real name, Keith Miles), vividly re-creates the scents and sensibilities of 16th-century England, with carefully applied strokes of humor. This 12th installment of his Nicholas Bracewell series offers fewer insights into its protagonist than did The Silent Woman, and slightly less menace than The Roaring Boy. But its intricate conspiracies and swashbuckling action give The Bawdy Basket dramatic urgency deserving of repeated ovations. --J. Kingston Pierce

Genre: Historical Mystery

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